Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
I Am a Pencil

I Am a Pencil

A Teacher, His Kids, and Their World of Stories

Sam Swope

Holt Paperbacks


Trade Paperback

"Swope's marvelous, moving book revives the teaching memoir . . . And takes it to new realms of tenderness, insight and humanity." -Phillip Lopate

In 1995, writer Sam Swope gave a workshop to a third-grade class in a Queens school bursting at the seams with kids from around the world. So enchanted was he with his twenty-eight students that he "adopted" the class for three years, teaching them to write stories and poems. 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. We meet Cindy (whose mom was a Taoist priestess), Brian (who cannot seem to tell the truth), and Lourdes (a wacky Dominican chatterbox). Preparing his students for a world of adult dangers, Swope is astonished by their courage, their humanity, and most of all, their strength. I Am a Pencil is a book about the power and magic of imagination, providing a unique window on the immigrant experience as seen through the lives of children.

Christopher Awards - Nominee, Christopher Awards - Winner


Praise for I Am a Pencil

“If only Swope's book were a lesson plan we could follow.” —Los Angeles Times Book Review

“It's really hard to communicate the sheer pleasure in teaching, and really connecting with, students like the ones Swope describes in such rich and generous detail. Is there a book that more convincingly demonstrates that any students, anywhere, from any backgrounds or surmounting any obstacles, can be led to love poetry, to read like madmen, to write compulsively and be open to the possibilities of the word on the page? I Am a Pencil should be read by anyone who wants to find inspiration in today's students, teachers and the Sam Swopes that enhance the lives of both.” —Dave Eggers, author of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

“How I want to be in Mr. Swope's class, where words are gift-wrapped and the worst thing you can be is boring. Throughout the story of three captivating years, it becomes very clear what Swope and his students have in common: Their writing is powerful, beautiful, original and sweet.” —Linda Perlstein, author of Not Much, Just Chillin'

“A magical journey. Sam Swope clearly has a gift for inspiring in others the make-believe, and so it's a treat to watch as he taps the imaginings of his immigrant students, and in doing so discover the realities of their newfound lives here.” —Alex Kotlowitz, Pulitzer-prize winning author of There Are No Children Here

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

Sam Swope

Sam Swope is the author of several very well-received children's books, including The Araboolies of Liberty Street, The Krazees, and Gotta Go! Gotta Go!, and of the soon-to-be published Jack and the Seven Deadly Giants. He lives in New York City.

Sam Swope

Sam Swope

From the Publisher

Holt Paperbacks

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