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Most educational writing is done in the abstract third person, as if there were no writer present. But the authors of two new books, I Am a Pencil and The Big Picture, write persuasively in the first person. Their pedagogical suggestions are enhanced by their experience and sensitivity.

I Am a Pencil documents the three years Sam Swope spent as a writer-in-residence in an elementary school of predominantly immigrant children in Queens, N.Y. Swope fell in love with his class of third graders and became a passionate, committed teacher and mentor. He also became a learner as the students and their parents shared their lives, insights, and creative work with him.

There are really two books here — an insightful account of how to teach poetry and writing in elementary school and a personal story of the joys and pains of full engagement in the lives of children who are trying to make sense of the troubling, often unsafe world they encounter every day.

One of Swope's exercises included asking students to write metaphors of themselves. Fatma wrote:

I'm a book
and my cover is ripped
and my back is dirty.
But the beauty of my pages
And the story is still there.

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