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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that My Pen, by award-winning author-illustrator Christopher Myers (Firebird), celebrates self-expression and imagination through black-and-white sketches and encourages us all to pick up a pen and create. The drawings are sensitive and expressive, almost eloquent at times. The message is inspirational, although the story is loosely connected at best and includes examples that may not be appropriate for younger picture-book readers. One spread about war especially is geared toward older kids. Myers dedicates this book to people who make things and honors both of his parents: his mother, Constance Myers, who taught him to draw, and his father, the late author Walter Dean Myers, for whom he illustrated the Caldecott Honor Book Harlem.
What's the story?
Through a series of pen-and-ink sketches, Aurelio, a young, gentle, dark-eyed boy in a fedora, uses his pen to express his imagination, create stories, and empower himself. His thought-provoking drawings flow dynamically across each page, accompanied by one or two lines of text that tell just what that pen is trying to do. The boy rides a dinosaur, tap-dances upside-down on the clouds, and wears satellite sneakers with computer laces. He spots an elephant nestled in a teacup, writes stories in the margins of his sketchpad, and sails a newspaper boat to Africa. His pen does make mistakes and hides from him at times, but it also helps him face his fears and insecurities.
Is it any good?
Energetic, sensitive, incredible pen-and-ink drawings create a mesmerizing celebration of self-expression and imagination in this boy's story about the power of his pen. The narrative may be too loosely connected for some, the beginning a little confusing, and some segments not appropriate for younger readers. However, most of the simple text is both fun and poetic, and the message comes across loud and clear: Imagination, self-expression, creativity, and art make even the smallest person more powerful.
School-age kids and adults will find THE PEN fascinating. Author-illustrator Christopher Myers fills his pages with tiny details that are just plain fun, and he dedicates his book "[t]o the people who make things, and to the people who share them." His book surely will encourage and inspire readers to pick up their pens and express themselves.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the words and illustrations work together in a picture book. Do the pictures add to the words, or do the words add to the drawings? Is it the same in all picture books? What about this one?
Do you think drawing the sketches in black and white was a good idea? Why do you think the illustrator chose to use pen-and-ink with no color? How would the book have changed if he had made the drawings more colorful?
Which drawings did you like most? What did you like about them? Are there any that you didn't like? How would you change them? What would you draw with your pen?
Themes & Topics
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.