About the Holiday
Today we celebrate that little item at the end of the pencil or near at hand that gives us second (or third…or fourth…or…) chances. The rubber eraser has been around since 1770, when Joseph Priestly invented a vegetable gum that could remove pencil marks and Edward Nairne developed it into an eraser that could be widely marketed. In 1839 Charles Goodyear’s work with vulcanization made erasers more durable, and Hyman Lipman put pencil and eraser together in 1858. What did people do before the rubber eraser? They still made mistakes, but wax and even crustless bread were the remedies of choice. To celebrate today, draw or write with abandon and feel free to erase as often as you want!
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 creates a whole 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 the traits they’ve been given. What’s a pencil to do? Draw an Eraser, of course!
The eraser takes care of the problems, but he 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.
Pencil recreates everything he had before, and Kitty colors it all in, including a new picnic with a runaway boiled egg named Billy and ten 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 is a master at tapping into children’s unbridled imagination and silly side. His endearing story of a little pencil who creates himself a world full of friends and excitement—as well as the inevitable conflict—will keep kids laughing with its word play, topsy-turvy names, and mad-dash action. As the eraser rubs out everything in its path, kids will also understand the gentle, underlying lesson that simply getting rid of a problem can sometimes just create more and that resolution is a better tact.
Bruce Ingman’s sly, childlike illustrations are the perfect accompaniment to Ahlberg’s story, deftly depicting the friendship and collaboration between Pencil and Paintbrush as they create house and its family with a mom sporting a crazy hat, a dad with large ears, and a grandpa smoking a pipe he doesn’t want. As Eraser begins his rampage, readers will enjoy the giddy suspense of how it will all end and will be happy to see that Paintbrush once again fills the pages with joyous and vivid color.
Ages 4 – 8
Candlewick Press, 2012 | ISBN 978-0763660888
National Rubber Eraser Day Activity
Pencil It In! Maze
Sharpen your pencil and start having fun with this printable pencil-shaped maze.
Picture Book Review