This was suggested reading for a writing digital class I sat in on last summer (as a mentor text for passage of time as an element of world building with author Tracey Baptiste through SCBWI), and I just ran out of time / dates on my blog in April during National Poetry Month to review it. Here it is. Enjoy.
Life in Amira Bright's village in the Sudan is ruled by the growing and harvesting of wheat. Her best friend's family moves away so the girl can go to school in Gad, a big city, and Amira is left at home with her sister, Leila, mother, Muma, who doesn't think Amira needs any education other than what it takes to run a household and care for a husband and children, and her grandfather, Dando, who encourages her.
With a stick she draws in the sand, letting her imagination fly. But all around her there is conflict: Dando and Old Anwar fight over tomatoes. Muma sits her down for a talk about the Janjaweed, but she understands little of it, except for Muma's fear.
A haboob almost carries away Nali, her pregnant sheep, but Amira saves her by stubbornly refusing to give up on Nali.
This stubbornness serves Amira well in the coming days, after the Janjaweed come and burn her home and village to the ground, killing her Dando and Nali. They begin the long trek to a refugee camp, which is everything and nothing it's promised to be.
But that's where Amira gets her first pencil -- the red pencil. And her life truly changes.
A weighty topic, but a quick read because the book is written in verse. It will hold readers' attentions with the illustrations around the pages / poems that perfectly complement the verse and get increasingly complicated and sophisticated as Amira learns to draw.