by Judy Newman with Cristy Bertini and Alana Pedalino
There were certain milestones in my childhood that had outsize significance. I was very eager to move up from shoes that tied—mine were saddle shoes in those days—to loafers; getting rid of my “Coke bottle” glasses for contact lenses; being able to shave my legs; and—believe it or not—being able to graduate from writing with a pencil to a pen.
When I think about it now, it seems silly that writing with a pen would be such a rite of passage. Maybe because fountain pens were still the standard, and disposable pens were still considered special and out of scope for young writers. Or maybe the grown-ups in my life were worried that I would get indelible ink stains on my clothes or the furniture. (Although not my grandparents’ couches because those were covered in protective plastic.) I don’t know why, but it was very thrilling to graduate from a pencil to a pen.
Once in a while, we would have to go back to using pencils (always No. 2 pencils) for things like the SATs and other bureaucratic documents. But once I started using pens, I really never wanted to go back to lead.
Many decades later, as I watch Sophie Rae play, draw with—and sometimes eat—all her pencils, I have renewed appreciation for the simplicity of a pencil.
I never thought about anthropomorphizing a Ticonderoga No. 2 pencil into a messy character who is challenged by his perfection-seeking friend, an eraser, but it does make total sense to me now after reading our Scholastic Book Clubs Book of the Week, Perfect by Max Amato.
Author-artist Max Amato illustrates a battle of the pages in this fun and messy picture book. Eraser is very proud of the clean, white pages of the book and is determined to keep them that way. But a mischievous pencil wants to express himself. The eraser can’t keep up with all of the pencil’s doodles, but then finally realizes that if he just changes his way of thinking and gives in to the mess, he might actually have some fun too.
“Children will be amused by the relationship and intrigued with the technique, comprehending that one can draw with a pencil and an eraser—and that opposites can coexist.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Full of an abundance of heart, nonstop action and delightfully clever illustrations, Perfect is sure to be a beloved hit.” —BookPage
I think we all have a bit of a stubborn streak and a certain level of perfectionism that we strive for, like the fussy eraser in Perfect who wants his pages spotless. And we don’t like venturing out of our comfort zones. I’m sure a lot of kids can relate. They want things the way they want them. They want their books lined up a certain way or their toys put away according to level of cuddliness.
David Vozar likes to keep a lid on his pencils.…
If you think about it, erasers are pretty good friends to have. They allow us to correct our mistakes and remind us that if we don’t succeed, we can always try again. And pencils are pretty great too!
We’ve created some teacher-approved resources to help you share Perfect with your students:
• Get ready to scribbleeeee! with the Book Boys in an epic battle of opposites in a class-friendly video
• Hear from first grade teacher Tiffany Beuter, who talks about making mistakes and empathy in Book Talks
• Watch an exclusive video interview with Max Amato in Behind the Scenes
• Download a free printable activity to share with students in Cooked Up from a Book
I hope your students love reading Perfect and that they learn this lesson: Everything doesn’t always have to be perfect. Sometimes it’s fun for things to get a little messy. Just do your best and if you don’t get it right the first time, grab an eraser and try again.
Please share your messy or neat thoughts with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This Book Is Available from Scholastic Book Clubs