March 30 – National Pencil Day

The Pencil by Allan Ahlberg and Bruce Ingman Picture Book Review

About the Holiday

Writers and artists, this day is for you! On this date in 1858 Hymen Lipman received a patent for the very first graphite pencil with an eraser attached. Lipman must have been an optimist because the pencil he created was ¾ graphite and ¼ India rubber eraser. The user would sharpen both ends to expose the material. There are conflicting reports on why most pencils sport that familiar yellow hue, but both agree that the color was associated with grandeur. One fascinating fact about this most noble instrument is that a single one can pen pencil 45,000 words or draw a line 35 miles long!

So sharpen those pencils—whatever color they are—and spend this day creating something wonderful!

The Pencil

Written by Allan Ahlberg | Illustrated by Bruce Ingman


Even before the title page readers learn of a little pencil, alone in the world. One day the pencil quivers and begins to draw. The pencil draws a boy, who asks for a name, and receives “Banjo” in reply. The boy wants a dog, and the pencil obliges. Bruce is the dog’s name, and he wants a cat. Mildred is immediately created, and of course Bruce chases Mildred. Banjo chases Bruce. They need a place to run, so the pencil draws a house, a town, and a park.

All this excitement makes the trio hungry and tired. Banjo demands the pencil draw him an apple, Bruce wants a bone, and Mildred really wants a mouse but settles for cat food. There’s just one problem—the food is so unappetizing in black and white. The pencil thinks for a bit and comes up with a solution. He draws a paintbrush named Kitty. Kitty colors the food, the boy, the dog, the house, the town, and the park. Mildred is left as created – she’s a black-and-white cat anyway.

The team of Pencil and Paintbrush create a family, a friend for Bruce, a ball (Sebastian) for Banjo, and a kitten for Mildred. But all these extra characters cause trouble. Sebastian breaks a window, and the mom, dad, sister, and grandpa aren’t completely satisfied with their traits. What’s a pencil to do? Draw an Eraser, of course!

The eraser takes care of the problems, but grows fond of his power to rub things out. He erases the table, chair, front door—the whole house. And that’s not all! Nothing the Pencil and Paintbrush have created is safe. Eraser rubs everything out until all that’s left is the pencil and the eraser locked in opposition.

The pencil draws a wall, a cage, a river and mountains with fierce animals but none of it is a match for the eraser. Then the pencil has a brainstorm and draws…another eraser! The two erasers engage in an epic battle, and in the end they rub each other out.

The Pencil recreates everything he had before, and Kitty colors it all in, including a new picnic with a runaway boiled egg named Billy and 10 A-named ants to clean up the crumbs. As the day fades into night, a moon appears in the sky along with a cozy box for Pencil and Paintbrush to sleep in.

Allen Ahlberg’s endearing story of a little pencil who creates himself a world full of friends and excitement as well as the inevitable conflict will appeal to kids for whom the imagination looms large and even competes with and enhances reality. On a subtle metaphorical level, as the eraser rubs out everything in its path, kids may see that simply getting rid of problems can sometimes cause more, and that resolution is a better tact.

Bruce Ingman’s illustrations deftly depict the friendship and collaboration between Pencil and Paintbrush. Graphite lines outline the characters and objects that Pencil draws, and the colorful accents from Paintbrush are vivid and joyful.

Ages 4 – 8

Candlewick Press, 2012 | ISBN 978-0763660888

National Pencil Day Activity

CPB - Pencil Maze

Pencil It In! Maze


Line up here to test your skills against this printable Pencil It In! pencil-shaped maze. Solution included. Sharpen your pencil and start having fun!

Picture Book Review

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