A teacher discovers how reading, writing, and imagining can help children grow, change, and even sometimes survive
A few years back, children's-book writer Sam Swope gave a workshop to a third-grade class in Queens. So enchanted was he with his twenty-eight students that he "adopted" the class for three years, teaching them to write stories and poems. Almost all were new Americans (his class included students fom twenty-one countries) and Swope was drawn deep into their real and imaginary lives, their problems, hopes, and fears. I Am a Pencil is the story of his years with this very special group of students. It is as funny, warm, heartbreaking, and hopeful as the children themselves. Swope follows his colorful troop of resilient writers from grades three to five, coaxing out their stories, watching talents blossom, explode, and sometimes fizzle, holding his breath as the kids' families brave new lives in a strange big city. We meet Susie (whose mom was a Taoist priestess), Alex (who cannot seem to tell the truth), and Noelia (a wacky Dominican chatterbox). All of the children have big dreams. Some have big problems: Salvador, an Ecuadorian boy, must cope with a strict Pentecostal father; Soo Jung mystifies Swope with sudden silences-until he discovers that her mother has left the family. Preparing his students for a world of adult dangers, Swope is astonished by their courage, humanity, but most of all by their strength.