The Bronze Pen – Zilpha Keatley Snyder – 208 pages
Audrey wants to be a writer, but she keeps her dream (and her stories) a secret from her ill father and overworked mother. When Audrey starts writing stories with the new pen given to her by a mysterious old woman, strange things start to happen–talking dogs, dragons under the bed, even a kidnapping by pirates! Audrey must learn to use the pen “wisely and to good purpose,” as the old woman instructed in order to put things right again.
I’ve been reading and re-reading your books with fervent adoration since I was a kid combing the library shelves; my copies of Season of Ponies, The Witches of Worm and The Egypt Game are particularly worn and well-loved. Your work always seemed to wrap me up and suck me in, surrounding me in this blanket of mystery and enchantment…that sounds kind of silly, but that’s how I always felt, like I might turn a corner and something magic would happen. So when I saw The Bronze Pen on the shelf at the store, I just had to bring it home, and read it with high hopes. I have to say, though, that this one didn’t do it for me the way some of your others always have.
I think the problem is that too much remains a mystery. Who is the mysterious old woman/voice in the cave? Where does the pen come from? How does it relate to Audrey’s grandmother (I think it was her grandmother), who told stories about a white duck? I presume it’s the same white duck that leads Audrey to the cave to get the pen, but it was just a little too mysterious–I wanted more back story. I hate to say it, but I kind of felt like you phoned this one in. It wasn’t bad, certainly, but it wasn’t glittering and totally absorbing and REAL the way your best fantasies are. I didn’t believe it, and that made it a little dull. Still, I think it’s a good read for the middle grade fantasy-loving crowd–it’s got enough adventure, danger, and well-crafted prose to keep the reader reading. Three stars for this one, mostly because it fades in comparison to your other work. It’s okay, you’re still one of my personal goddesses. 😀
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Pages this year: 17,461