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The Red Pencil

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  5,914 ratings  ·  931 reviews
"Amira, look at me," Muma insists.
She collects both my hands in hers.
"The Janjaweed attack without warning.
If ever they come--run."

Finally, Amira is twelve. Old enough to wear a toob, old enough for new responsibilities. And maybe old enough to go to school in Nyala--Amira's one true dream.

But life in her peaceful Sudanese village is shattered when the Janjaweed arrive. T
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published September 16th 2014 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (first published January 1st 2014)
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Average rating 3.92  · 
Rating details
 ·  5,914 ratings  ·  931 reviews

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Jesse (JesseTheReader)
I tend to struggle with books written in verse, but I quite enjoyed this one! Though I definitely still had some issues here and there. I feel like the beginning part of the story could've been condensed and the ending could've been expanded. Other than that this was a beautiful story about a girl who's faced with with a life changing event and how she keeps herself going & heals. ...more
Jul 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
when you marry,
you will not need to read.
A good wife lets her husband do the reading."

Due to her sex and upbringing, twelve-year-old Amira's options for the future are limited. She is expected to marry young, raise children, and work on a farm in Sudan. But changes are coming.

My father tries to explain something
that is more twisted
than a tangled
skein of raggedy thread.
"Amira, we are living in a time of war."

He uses strange terms:

I understand a little more
Mar 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
GO READ THIS NOW. I'll wait. It doesn't take long, but it's also a book to savor and reread. A middle grade novel told in verse, I have never read something so powerful with so few words. The sparse prose worked brilliantly, with not a word wasted. This is especially important because of the subject matter. The illustrations are evocative and rich pencil drawings, and I wish I could insert over 20+images here to prove it's artistic beauty.

Pinkney was deeply moved by the Darfur conflict and want
Aug 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
4 STARS!!!

The writing was so beautiful but heartbreaking at the same time. The illustrations were a huge part of his story and blended so well with the verse writing style. Amira is such a strong and determined main character and I admire her so much for her strength and drive, especially during such a horrifying time in her young life. Andrea has a way with words that captivate and dig deep into you and make you feel. I look forward to reading more of her amazing work in the future.

- Richard
Dec 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
The one thing I enjoyed about this book is even though it was written in verse, it explained so much about each scenario Amira was in. When Amira lost her voice from being traumatized, she was given the red pencil which represented her gaining her voice back. She was also given a chance to have an education but girls didn't have the same right as boys to go to school. I was inspired by the idea of how someone can gain something small but it can change their world. The plot and theme were very we ...more
this is the story of amira, a sudanese girl whose young life is disrupted by war when the janjaweed invade her home in the midst of the darfur conflict. the novel-in-verse remains playful and hopeful, even as amira struggles with trauma, displacement, grief, and being denied an education.

i think novel-in-verse is usually an ideal format for children's historical fiction about heavy topics, but i really struggled to engage with this story. amira is 12, but she reads as MUCH younger. i can't tell
May 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Before I even start discussing about the book,I would request all my fellow bibliophiles to pick this up and read it .This is a book everyone should read.
This is a fictional story based on the Darfur conflict in Sudan- a war for land and property from 2003 that has led to genocide and the uprooting of thousands of innocent people from their homes and farmlands to refugee camps.Thousands have been massacred in the name of a cruel war that seems to have no end, and what initially began as a land w
My low rating is mostly due to the fact that I never clicked with the writing style. In the author's note, she explains why she wrote it in that style and it's for good reasons, so I kind of feel bad that I couldn't get into it. Basically, even though it didn't work for me, I don't want to discourage others from reading it. This is a children's book about the Darfur conflict in Sudan, and I do think the author did a good job showing the severity of it on a child's level, also giving hope at the ...more
Brenda Kahn
An important addition to any middle school collection. Pair with Serafina's Promise. Both eloquently portray courage in the face of diversity. The art by the great Shane W. Evans enhance the immediacy of the poems. ...more
Ms. Yingling
Jun 27, 2014 rated it liked it
Amira, her disabled younger sister Leila, and her father and mother have a fairly prosperous life in Darfur in 2003. They have a patch of ground with a garden, and a goat that has a kid. Amira is envious of her best friend, Halima, who leaves their village to go to the Gad Primary School. It is expensive to go, but what is holding Amira back is her mother's opinion that girls do not need to know anything but how to take care of a household. When the Jangaweed arrive and attack the town, Amira's ...more
Nov 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Pinkney's language is delicious, worthy of reading and rereading as she creates a vivid picture of the placid family-filled life of 12-year-old Amira and then a life that is tragically devastated by the Janjaweed militia and Amira's escape to a dead-end refugee camp.

I can't read realistic fiction that takes place in a real place that is still at war without wanting to know more and this might be an opportunity for students to do the same. I fell in love with Amira, her life, her losses, and her
3.5 stars.

A heartbreaking younger-end-of-the-YA-market novel written in verse about a 12 year old girl living in rural Sudan. Her life is turned upside down when the Janjaweed attack and her father is killed. She, her mother, and her younger sister - who has birth defects - make their way to a refugee camp. The trauma she's been through causes Amira to effectively lose her voice, and it doesn't return until an aid worker gives her a notepad and a red pencil.

As I said, this really is heartbreak
May 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book is a wonderful story that could be used in many ways. It could be used for lessons on Figurative Language, it could be used as an introduction to a research project-being realistic fiction, students could research what is currently happening in Darfur and Sudan to see how the story matches up to real life events, along with the details about how people live their daily lives there, which was described in so much detail in the book. I also loved the pictures that accompanied the story. ...more
Jul 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Amira is a young Sudanese girl who lives on a farm with her loving family. Unfortunately, war ravages her village and she loses almost everything she holds dear. Forced to walk many miles at night with what is left of her family, Amira finally reaches the safety of a refugee camp.

A story for middle grade readers that uses prose poems and pencil illustrations to convey the realities of a family caught in the middle of a war. Extensively researched by the author, this is a story that deserves to
What a quietly poetical and soothing story.
Red Pencil tells the story in free verses of Amira, of her desire for more, her hunger to learn, to discover. Through her eyes we are told the story of her parents, her family, her village, Sudanese war.
I found myself more and more attracted to middle grade books written in verse, it conveys so much with little words. This one was no exception for me. The poetry was not breathtaking but always tender, sweet and heartbreaking at times.
I am so happy m
Heather Moore
May 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
Covering a topic like genocide in a middle grade novel sounds like a daunting task, but leave it to Andrea Davis Pinkney to do it in the best way possible. I absolutely adored Amira — her playfulness and love of drawing reminded me so much of my own 11 year old. This was a beautiful and gentle way for children to begin to understand world issues today while keeping the human spirit at the heart of the story.
Sabrien Abdelrahman
Mar 06, 2018 marked it as to-read
Joyce Yattoni
Jul 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Beautifully written in verse about the human condition of war. Amira is a young adult with a bold spirit from Darfur Africa when her small village is attacked by the Janjaweed militia. Her father is killed and the family is forced into a refugee camp. She has never been educated due to the beliefs of her people, however she longs to be. The human condition is explored extensively. The reader walks away with great empathy as to how it feels to lust after drink and food, to be caged in a camp with ...more
Rakia Pierre
I thought this book was good I didn't personally LOVE the book but I thought it was very interesting I felt a bit worried for my characters at times especially with them moving to get to where they wanted to go ...more
Dec 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Interest Level: 3-6; Reading Level: 4.6

What would you do if almost everything that mattered to you was taken away? What if you had to flee from your home in order to save your life? Amira had a happy life - she just turned twelve and that means she is old enough to wear a toob (a long piece of fabric worn by a Sudanese woman as an outer garment to wrap her whole body), she gets more grown-up responsibilities, and the possibility of going to school. Her mom will not hear of the talk of school, bu
Gus Preston
Jan 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Written in prose from the perspective of 12 year old Amira, "The Red Pencil" is about a girl whose whole life seems to be predetermined for her from birth. According to her parents she will get married and start a family, but this doesn't seem like enough for the brave, creative, and driven Amira. She wants a different life for herself, craving education and literacy, a thirst for knowledge atypical of girls in her town in South Darfur. The book depicts her struggle between wanting to obtain an ...more
Feb 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
I remember being in high school when the conflict in Darfur became big news in the states. I remember hearing words like 'genocide' and 'militia' and 'resistance fighting' and not completely understanding what was happening. Being a teenager, my attention was on concerns more immediate to myself, like my grades or the latest gossip.

I wonder if I had read a book like this in 2005 if I would have cared more about the terrible things happening in Sudan. Since reading The Red Pencil, I've researched
Jan 27, 2017 rated it liked it
I think this book was good because it was easy to read because it was in poetry form. Also the book is really interesting to me because it talks about a girls life and how it changes when the girl receives a red pencil. This book was about how the jajaweed invaded their living place and brought them to their own territory also known as jail but in the old days and it's the little girl's dream to get her and her family out of their. I would recommend this book to teenage girls who want to learn h ...more
Jun 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Pain-clouds rise in Muma’s eyes.
She takes both my hands in hers.
Holds them.
Kneads them,
as if she’s shaping dough.

“Amira, sorrow’s fence
has locked you in,” she says.
“The only way out
is through time

I'm in tears. This poetry book has been one of the most purest thing I've read so far. I was smiling at Amira's innocence and her soul so full of love and curiosity. Learning about Darfur was heartbreaking. I just wish there was a more explained ending? I really wanted to see how far Amira had gone af
Marco Morano
Jul 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2018
My main issue with this book was the ending. It was really abrupt and fast. I feel like we didn't get much closure and what was going to happen to all the characters and when it comes to a story like this closure was necessary. Other than that this book was great! The free verse writing style was amazing, and the fact that there were little illustrations every now and then made me enjoy this more! ...more
Oct 02, 2019 rated it liked it
Some great poems for instructional purposes, but the ending leaves readers feeling unsatisfied. This might be the author's intention, but it is a difficult sell to many young readers. ...more
Ashleigh Powell
Nov 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: wow-books
The Red Pencil would be a great book to use as an introduction to poetry for grades four and above. The book follows Amira, a young Sudanese girl, while her village and family experiences war. Due to the traumatizing events, Amira loses her voice and begins to lose her hope too. Overtime, she is gifted a red pencil and this allows her to find her voice again and pursue and education.

Amira dreams of attending school one day, and her red pencil helps her achieve this dream. I would want my studen
Grace Allyn
Mar 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
POETRY- Every time I put this book down, I found myself still thinking about it! Wow... some of the most beautiful and vivid writing that I have ever read. The book follows the path of a young Sudanese girl who has a longing desire for education, yet is not allowed to read in her culture. The storyline is set up through poems which portray her emotions and thoughts as if we are inside sweet Amria's head. As readers we are able to follow her through this battle that she has with choosing family o ...more
Michelle Beck
Nov 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Andrea Davis Pinkney’s The Red Pencil holds a moving story of Amira Bright, an intelligent and spirited 12-year old girl. Amira lives with her family on their small farm in northern Darfur, Africa. Amira’s best friend Halima leaves with her family to go to a primary school named Gad where she can learn to read and write, something Amira desperately wants. However, Amira’s mother is very against her daughter learning to read and will not allow it. Amira dreams of going to Gad, but when the Janjaw ...more
Nov 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
“The Red Pencil” by Andrea Davis Pinkney is a young adult novel written in verse. This verse novel follows the story of twelve year old Amira Bright. Amira Bright is a young girl living in Darfur who lives in a traditional family where she is not allowed to go to school to learn to read and write. One day, her village is attacked by the Janjaweed and her beloved father is killed. She must flee with her mother and sister as well as with Old Anwar, a family friend. Her tragedy leads her to a camp ...more
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Andrea Davis Pinkney is the New York Times bestselling author of more than 20 books for children, including the Caldecott Honor Book and Coretta Scott King Honor Book Duke Ellington, illustrated by Brian Pinkney; Let it Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters, a Coretta Scott King Honor Book and winner of the Carter G. Woodson Award; and Alvin Ailey, a Parenting Publication Gold medal winne ...more

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