What if your pencil had all the answers? Would you ace every test? Would you know what your teachers were thinking? When Ava Anderson finds a scratched up pencil she doodles like she would with any other pencil. But when she writes a question in the margin of her math quiz, she hears a clear answer in a voice no one else seems to hear.(goodreads summary)
In the family's kitchen drawer, Middle Schooler Ava Anderson finds a very unusual pencil. It looks ordinary enough but it seems to have a magical power. When she writes a question with it, there is a voice that only she can hear giving the answer. Feeling anxious about a math quiz, she takes the pencil to school to see if it would help her on the test. She then decides to show her best friend Sophie. The pair cause some unexpected results when they use it on the kids at school fooling them with their so called psychic ability. As Ava becomes more reliant on the pencil, she asks some personal questions about her family but then wonders if there are some answers that are best not knowing.
If I had a magical pencil, I'm not sure if I would want to know answers to my many questions. Although, it does make me somewhat curious and it might be intriguing for kids, as in this story from one of my favorite authors for middle grade readers. Kids will connect to Ava's worry's about test taking, friendships, personal family issues, fear of trying out for the jazz band, track and her upcoming field trip to the obstacle course. Her mild personality makes for a likeable character and the family interactions were touching throughout the story. Especially when it comes to the girls wanting to do good with the pencil helping the residents find happiness at her grandfather's nursing home. She found that her grumpy grandpa's favorite jazz artist was Johnny Hodges and taught herself to play his favorite song on her saxophone passing on instant joy for him. Another key moment for Ava was after the pencil told her about her mom's unknown cancer and only she knew of the diagnosis. So when her mom was going to cancel a doctors appointment to accompany her on the field trip, Ava found the strength within herself to face her fear of the challenge course and do it on her own so her mom could keep it. I also liked how the other kids cheered her on with encouragement and reading her accomplishment was heartwarming. She amazed herself so much completing it that she felt like she could take on anything. There were many more great character developments throughout not only for Ava, but also for the many other characters as well. I originally thought this book was going to be a fantasy read about a magical pencil. Instead, it turned out to be a wonderful realistic coming of age story touching on many topics such as; anxiety issues, rightful thinking, doing good for others, death, the possible cancer of a parent and facing your fears. I think this is a "just right " book for ages 9-12.~
Title: All the Answers
Author: Kate Messner
Pub. date: January 2015, Bloomsbury
Genre: realistic fiction
Hardcover, 256 pgs.