cover image The Obstinate Pen

The Obstinate Pen

Frank W. Dormer. Holt, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-8050-9295-0

The eponymous pen—both magical and stubborn—isn’t content to be the instrument of just any old human’s creativity. When a grownup possesses it, the pen will only write insults (instead of writing “The following story is all true,” for its first owner, the pen scribbles, “You have a BIG nose”) or unwanted advice (“Kiss her, banana head!” it instructs a police officer about to issue a citation to a smitten citizen). But when young Horace gets his mitts on the pen and begins drawing, it turns as docile as a kitty, allowing him to scribble as many drawings as his imagination can muster. The world of this book is more fleshed out and colorful than that of Dormer’s Socksquatch (2010), but it’s still goofily offbeat: rich people ride in enormous convertible limos, policemen dress like Gilbert and Sullivan characters, and topiary abounds. Dormer’s gift for understated whimsy shows no evidence of abating, and adult readers may even detect a little bit of William Steig in his amusement at (and affection for) the follies of humanity. Ages 4–8. (Apr.)