A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Use knowledge for good; make peace without getting all the answers; let go.
Positive Role Models
Ava is a worrier, but she's a curious, sensitive, and intelligent girl who cares a lot about how others feel and what they need and about doing the right thing. She strives to understand the people and the world around her, and she goes out of her way to learn her grandpa's favorite music or make up with her friend Sophie. Her parents are incredibly engaged and present, and her teachers are persistent and involved in making sure she does her best and doesn't shy away from challenges.
Violence & Scariness
A fairy tale references a graphic image of cut-off, bleeding feet. Ava falls during an adventure exercise and has bleeding knees. Ava has a vivid imagination full of sometimes graphic worries, such as flesh-eating bacteria, terrorist attacks, and school shootings. Lots of worries about health issues. A few characters die of old age; one faces cancer.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Ava and Sophie discuss which boys have crushes. Their favorite singer has kissed a guy twice. A boy dumps a girl to go out with another girl. A girl is dumped.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that All the Answers tells the story of Ava, who discovers a magic pencil that provides answers to every factual question she asks. The book deals mostly with the thrill of discovery and the thirst for knowledge, as well as the ethical dilemma inherent in the gift, but it also addresses a grandparent's death and a parent's cancer diagnosis. Ava's a worrier, and the book deals heavily with her imagining all the things that can go wrong. There are some heavy themes of loss, anxiety, and grief, along with provocative ideas that foster curiosity and very sweet intergenerational relationships that make this a great book for curious readers.
Is It Any Good?
This is a deceptively simple book; it appears to be about a fun pencil, but it opens up a world of big questions about life, death, knowledge, and purpose that are incredibly moving. Here, Ava and her friends grapple with real-life middle schooler desires and questions -- Which boys like me? What's the answer to this science question? -- and much larger concerns, such as whether her parents will divorce or die and how to find a happy balance between what we can know and do something about and what we must give up to free will.
This is a great, reassuring book for kids who have a lot of worries, or kids dealing with an ill parent, or kids who have recently lost grandparents to illness or death. It's very thoughtful and has some heavy themes, but the overall feeling is about how to cope with whatever life throws your way.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.