In this uneven but enjoyable fantasy, a young girl finds that a seemingly ordinary little pencil opens the door to a magical adventure.
Rachel’s pencil, which she calls “Stubby,” is more than it seems. When she puts ugly little Stubby to a blank page in her journal, her words seem to write themselves: “Once upon a time there was a unicorn named Greycloud….” Rachel can’t wait to return to her journal to see what happens next in the unfolding fantasy about a prince, a lost unicorn, a wicked wizard, and the prince’s allies, who have been turned into a caterpillar, a dragonfly, and a butterfly. Young readers will feel the same, particularly when the fantasy takes on a life of its own, propelling Rachel out of her everyday life and into a crucial role in the magical happenings. The mystery of Stubby is revealed in a satisfying aha moment as Rachel awakens to her own creative imagination and confidence. On the downside are a few easily correctable errors: paragraphs repeat, Rachel’s little brother is “eighty,” and the author uses “peeked” for “piqued.” Hobson (Callings: Tales of the Conrads of Karna, 2014, etc.) might also consider softening certain moments in Rachel’s “real” life having to do with best friend Cari, who, oddly, has no interest when Rachel tries to tell her about the strange pencil: “Can we talk?” “But I’m swinging,” Cari complains. Lack of interest becomes outright hostility when Cari ridicules Rachel’s desire to go to the library to write: “Cari’s eyes widened. Then she smirked. At last she broke out into a fit of laughter.” Cari’s attitude also leads to a sixth grader and his friends bullying Rachel in a jarring playground confrontation that becomes physical. “We want to see the pencil that made you crazy,” he says. These darker notes add some ill-fitting color.
Engaging but in need of some fine tuning to realize its imagination-stirring potential.