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All the Answers

Last updated Monday, August 3, 2015

Author: Kate Messner
Date of Publication: 2015
ISBN: 1619633744
Grade Level: 5th    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Aug. 2015

Synopsis: 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.

With the help of her friend Sophie, Ava figures out that the pencil will answer factual questions only - those with definite right or wrong answers - but won't predict the future. Ava and Sophie discover all kinds of uses for the pencil, and Ava's confidence grows with each answer. But it's getting shorter with every sharpening, and when the pencil reveals a scary truth about Ava's family, she realizes that sometimes the bravest people are the ones who live without all the answers.

Note to readers:
•  Spoiler Alert: It is a mystery as to who is speaking. At the end of the book, we discover it is a family member (a dead grandmother), whose soul is in the pencil.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  Looking at the cover, what do you think this book is about?
•  The back cover tells us that the pencil can talk. What would you ask a talking pencil that had all the answers?
•  What would you do if you had a pencil that could talk – would you keep it or sell it?


•  billowed - to rise or roll in waves; to move as a large cloud or mass
•  heaving - raising or lifting with effort or force
•  hesitated - to be reluctant or unwilling to do something because of doubt or uncertainty
•  spindly – long or tall and thin
•  resentful - having or showing a feeling of anger or displeasure about someone or something unfair
•  classifications - arrangements of people or things into groups based on ways that they are alike
•  elaborate - to give more details about something

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  Who do you think the voice of the pencil is? (If you are not able to read the whole book to reveal the mystery.)
•  Would you share the fact that you had a talking pencil with your friends? Why or why not?
•  Would you use the pencil to give you all the test questions? Ava feels bad doing that; would you feel bad?
•  If you do not have a talking pencil, how can you get the answers to test questions? (By studying!)

Craft ideas:
•  Write down all the questions you would ask a talking pencil - remember it does not predict the future and only states facts.
•  Make a book cover and decorate it. First, lay your paper, cover side face down. Open your book and lay it onto the paper cover side down. With a pencil, mark the edges of your open book onto the paper as guides. Cut your paper with an extra 1 1/2" above the top and bottom guides, and an extra 3" over the side guides. Remove your book. Fold the extra 1 1/2" strip down at the top and bottom edge, then lay your open book inside cover side down. The top and bottom edge of your book should match up to the top and bottom edge of your paper. Centering your book, mark 1/4" away from the book's right and left side (this is to allow give so the book can close), fold the extra paper on each side over this mark, and crease. Now, tuck the front and back book covers into the pockets you've created in the extra 3" fold. Draw and color the cover with your name or add stickers to personalize the cover.
•  Draw a picture of a favorite place you went this summer or a place you wanted to go.

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don’t have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!