My Pencil and Me by Sara Varon

My Pencil and Me by Sara Varon
Digital Review Copy from FirstSecond
My Pencil and Me, like every book Sara Varon creates, is infused with a current of thoughtful kindness  and an odd, in the very best meaning of the word, sensibility. Instead of an anthropomorphized cupcake, a talented shoe making donkey or a quirky duck, Varon casts herself and her own dog, Sweet Pea, as the main characters of a story about the creative process. Varon opens with Sweet Pea asking her why she is sitting at her desk, just staring into space. Varon answers, "I'm supposed to be working on a new book, but it's always so hard to get started." With clarity that can only come from a black lab, Sweet Pea answers, "Why don't you just ask your pencil for help?" From there, the trio take readers through the steps of writing a story, which is an entertaining story itself! From collecting ideas, to overcoming your inner critic, as well as pencil's superb advice to, "forget about the eraser! It doesn't need to be perfect," Sara gathers the building blocks of a great story. Setting and characters are in place when conflict occurs! When Sweet Pea points out that there is no conflict in the story, a tussle between Varon, Sweet Pea and the pencil over the need for conflict ends with a broken pencil. Unsure of how to continue writing her story, the imaginary friends step in and help find an ending. Back in her studio, Varon and Sweet Pea put the finishing touches on her book, like a title, with an illustration that includes her editor, Mark Seigel  (Kiara Valdez also edited) staring up at her from the page telling her not to change a thing - every author's dream, I'm sure! A page turn shows a photo of Varon and Sweet Pea, in real life, in her studio, with some special imaginary friends added in, then a photo of an illustrated version of the pair walking past a real photo of Stories Bookshop + Storytelling Lab in Brooklyn where they see their book in the window! Judging by the other books surrounding it (including Elizabeth Warren: Nevertheless, She Persisted, sigh) it was Women's History Month when the picture was taken.

I always love a book about books, especially when it is a book about the creative process. My Pencil and Me makes readers feel like they are right with Varon (and Sweet Pea) as she creates, making this a superb book to use in the classroom. Of course there is so much more that goes into writing a book, especially when you are also the illustrator, and Varon makes it look like a walk in the (baseball) park, but that's something for another book . . . 

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