The Magic Pencil
By Karen E. Dabney
Dabs & Company
No matter what you might think The Magic Pencil by Karen E. Dabney is about–it is more! More educational, more fun, more poetic, more inspirational…and more magical! I thoroughly enjoyed reading and learning from this book!
This story is the personal account by a special young man, Malcolm Bakersfield, who was first to notice the magic pencil! Malcolm is very intelligent and always did well in school until he used his first magic pencil and became a straight “A” student! That’s all I’m saying about that now because Malcolm has also shared about a lot of different topics!
My favorite story was about what happened on Halloween. Instead of just dressing up and going out for candy, Malcolm and his friend Nia went to a celebration of Ancestor’s Night, where you dress as cultural heroes and some of those attending share a short story about the individual they are portraying. Plus there are special foods to eat and games to play. I thought this was a grand alternative that would be both educational and fun! I think I would go as Holly Springs, a lady I just learned about recently and who impressed me with her spunky actions!
In addition, I also enjoyed all of the family issues that were discussed—at home and elsewhere. Malcolm’s big brother lived with his father and seemed to have a lot more freedom, but Malcolm was concerned about him because he was thinking of dropping out of school. There were also visits at church, to Malcolm’s cousins, and to attend sports events or just play together. No matter what was happening, you could tell that there was much love and concern about others.
Malcolm’s friends were also important to him and he had become close to the new girl, Nia. Both of them not only cared for each other as friends, but were able to share about any topic of interest or concern. Malcolm was also anxious to help his friends become better in school and would spend time talking about assignments with them.
Now there is also one very important thing about Malcolm’s story that you should know. As explained in the front:
If you don’t understand him at first,
Try reading aloud then you’ll have a thirst…
You might agree with him or have a different view,
It’s OK wit him if it’s OK witchu! (p. vi)
Malcolm writes like we speak every day, but he knows he should use standard English to make his good grades. Nia, the new girl, spoke “proper” English most of the time, except maybe when they’re outside playing. I’ve always been pretty good in standard English, but I had some problems with words like “warsh” for wash or “crik” for creek, cause that’s how we used to say them where I lived.
So, to me, it was so much fun to read and hear Malcolm in my head, because we all need to remember that, we can use standard English and learn all those rules—but that doesn’t mean we can’t understand one another when we want to speak cool!
Needless to say, I loved The Magic Pencil by Karen E. Dabney. If you have children, please get this book as a special Christmas stocking stuffer! It really is a must-read!
— G. A. Bixler
The Magic Pencil by Karen E. Dabney
The Magic Pencil is an inspiring novel for older kids (and anybody else who doesn’t mind reading about them, and remembering childhood). It’s a full-length novel at 241  pages. The chapters are very short so you feel like you’re reading even faster than you are.
It’s written in first person, in "black vernacular English" (that's actually a language–not just slang. Slang comes and goes). I had NO trouble following that and the spellin’ of all dat (I’m sure I just butchered it here – ha ha). I followed it instantly; in fact it was cool, festive and enticed me on. The language tone perfectly fit the mindful main character who was able to switch how he talked, changing from informality to formality depending on what group he was in, and who was in earshot.
The book is mostly a “one kid show” as Malcolm casually chats on the page to us about his frugal life in the city. His family, school, church, friends, sports, music, possessions -all the bits of his life are all duly noted almost as if he’s just talking to himself about himself and what he’s up to. It’s as if he has a hyperactive self-awareness. Malcolm is coming to realize that he’s gifted.
A main object of attention in the story is the humble school pencil that is the lightning rod in his studies. The positive energy from the pencil is contagious. Mia [Nia] had touched it. She is a gifted kid who bumped up a grade and comes into his life. Does she brings out the best in all the people around her, naturally, or is she some sort of a magical Mary Poppins kid who journeys from school to school to deliberately improve the lives of everybody?
Overall, the book is a moral lesson in how to live nice. Have respect for yourself and others. If you do that you will bring out the best in others. If you are aware of your own power you can make great change in your own community.
I give it an enthusiastic well-sharpened TEN PENCILS UP !!!
— Peter Joseph Swanson, author, Merlin's Charge
The Magic Pencil by Karen E. Dabney
Dabs & Company
What an awesome piece of cultural artwork all collectively assembled inside of a book.
As a parent, I loved the way LIVING black history is effortlessly integrated within the casual conversations among peers and adults. I loved the way the adult characters are portrayed and provided such strength in character, volition and beliefs. Even the scenery doesn't infringe upon belief systems in anyway, Malcolm just explains things as he sees them without real judgment or disdain. The feelings he has about his brother's "illegal activities" give credence to how we ALL make our beds in life. We choose our options.
Two siblings with the same opportunities…see their choices in different ways for different reasons.
Yet Malcolm never gives up hope… he looks up to his big brother as his protector from the streets at the same time. So many of our children are in this scenario. Malcolm's mother's talents and dreams are sprinkled in and provide such an awesome foundation for his optimism on life's possibilities.
The manners, traditions and cultural experiences shared in the story are just timeless. The classroom anticipation and preparation of welcoming in a "Barack Obama" era are nicely incorporated. The characters are not stereotypes. They feel real and possible. Not just being bilingual as the characters describe their existence, but bi-cultural. The conversation that Nia and Malcolm had about mass media explains a great deal about the role of parenting and society can play in deciding "WE WANT MORE UNIQUE GIFTS PRESENTED TO THE WORLD AND NOT LESS!"
So many careful planted message seeds exist within Magic Pencil that it truly deserves a workbook/study guide!
Loved it and look forward to sharing with other "YOUNG STARS!" I am so pleased that U introduced this to the world!
— Joan E. Gosier, author. Cotton Pickin' Paycheck-A 21st Century Journal of Escape from Slavery (1805-1988)
The Magic Pencil
by Karen E. Dabney
Reviewed by: Push Nevahda
Karen E. Dabney’s new book is more than just a book about a kid named Malcolm and a magic pencil. The Magic Pencil is a literary hand-basket of edutainment galore. Dabney’s literary treat is culturally refreshing, poetically amusing, and full of the Disney-like magic that will surely delight anyone who is interested in fresh and colorful reading.
Malcolm is at the center of this tale and is burdened with the arduous task of whether to do the right thing. He is hopeful, optimistic, even in circumstances that warrant a cynic’s pessimistic outlook. He is ultimately caught between the binary realities within the rambunctious context of family, friends, life, and what it all means to him.
Dabney’s characters are richly textured, and she worked extra hard not to surrender her characters to age-ole stereotypes, giving meticulous consideration to cultural detail, as well as a useful lesson (and critique?) on the Shakespearean question of colloquial language – to use it or not to use it. As a matter of fact, Dabney’s grasp of the colloquial language is so masterful that, at times, I felt as though I were reading a Geneva Smitherman book.
Given the quality of books rolling off the press these days, The Magic Pencil is a rare book. It is a marvelously didactic read, and can actually teach and instruct readers with good, sound, moral, philosophy. Haki Madhubuti once said that a book must engage the community. In that sense, Dabney’s book is accountable and responsible to the task of what this sort of book ought to achieve. That makes TMP a must-read. Good work, Dabney!
The Magic Pencil
Dabs & Company 2009
The Magic Pencil is available in stores, through Amazon and other online retailers!