On Pencils, Erasers & Making Space in 2021

Hey, it’s 2021. We made it!

Anyone manage to flourish creatively last year?

I commend you, if so. (And please share your secret below.) 

I did not. For various reasons, both universal and personal, my creative well was bone dry. 

But it’s a new year, things are looking up, and I’m hoping to get the old well burbling again. Or something like that.

So I was happy to stumble on a picture book about creativity: When Pencil Met Eraser, written by Karen Kilpatrick and Luis O. Ramos, Jr. and illustrated by Germán Blanco (Imprint/Macmillan, 2019). 

It’s also about conflict, friendship and collaboration. Good stuff.

But mostly I liked Eraser.

Sure, Pencil is a talented artist. But his work feels busy, sometimes even a little dark and oppressive.

Then Eraser comes along and does what erasers do.  Understandably, Pencil doesn’t like anyone messing with his work of art. But the results are impressive. 

By creating space in Pencil’s compositions, Eraser lets us see things in a new way.

Instead of a crowded city . . .

we see an open skyline and individual buildings.

We watch a storm-tossed sea become calm . . .

And discover stars on a pitch-black night.

Kids will love this book. They’ll love comparing Pencil’s work before and after Eraser’s contributions. They’ll laugh at Pencil’s expressions of frustration, the realistic scattering of eraser crumbs, and the “Ha!” ending. And they’ll appreciate the eventual reconciliation and friendship that develops.

But I loved it too. It got me thinking about all sorts of things: About the contrast of light and darkness; about the value of open space, like quiet in the midst of too much noise; about how letting go of clutter—physical, mental, emotional—can give us a fresh perspective to see things in a new way. 

After a year of too-muchness, I’m thinking of what I can release to make way for more creativity. I can’t quite let go of pandemic and election anxiety just yet, but I see some hope on the horizon.

And you? What do you hope to make space for in 2021? What would you like to let go of?

Thanks for reading. And here’s to a happy, healthy and creative year ahead!


PS If you like this book, there’s a 2020 companion: When Pencil Met the Markers. Also good, but Eraser has a less prominent role—it’s more about more and less about less.

PPS The winner of Sue Soltis’s book The Stars Just Up the Street from last month’s post is Deborah Buschman. Congratulations, Deb!

Linda Ashman

Linda Ashman is the author of more than 45 picture books, as well as The Nuts and Bolts Guide to Writing Picture Books, a how-to guide for picture book writers. Her books have been included on the ‘best of the year’ lists of The New York Times, Kirkus Reviews, the American Library Association, the Children’s Book Council, and The New York Public Library, among others, and have been translated into many languages.


  1. Linda, I love this book already. Thank you and a happy, healthful, and creative New Year to you too.

  2. This is book so fun and creative. We could all use an eraser in our lives. I’m so thrilled to have won The Stars Just Up The Street by Sue Soltis. Another eye opening book.
    Thanks Linda for a little 2021 inspiration

  3. Eraser reminds me of the importance of editing!
    Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  4. Collaboration is an art form – love the way these two work it out!

    Happy New Year Linda!

  5. I love finding books that are so deceptively simple in concept at the same time they are fresh ideas with a really fun take. This will certainly be added to my collection! Thanks for sharing.

  6. I love your insight about the fresh perspective and how Eraser takes Pencil to unexpected places -the right kind and amount of change can really make a difference! 2020 was too much and the wrong kind of change. What I find works for my writing is similar, that age-old advice about filling your tank up with something new. My favorite phrase from a yoga instructor is “take it to the edge of comfort.”, stretching yourself in a good way, without torturing yourself. I love my daily walks in the woods for the unexpected changes, and right now that might mean conditions at the edge of comfort. Another trick for me is getting soundtracks from the library, of movies I’ve never watched -a collection of music that someone curated with a specific artistic goal offers me lots of surprises and helps me see my current ms in a new light.

    • These sound like great ideas, Mike. I’ve resumed a long-dormant yoga practice too (thank you, Glo Yoga), one of the silver linings of the pandemic and hope to do a better job of trying new things. Thanks for reading!

  7. This book is a wonderful contrast between doing it and over doing it. Making space. Love it! I’m trying to distill down what I think I “need” to do to make space for my creativity. I’ve added #Inktober52 to give myself time to play each week (1 prompt a week instead of each day in October, which would never work for me). My first prompt was certainly fun and I felt like I had played! So everyone, make time to play and be creative! No pressure. 🙂

  8. Pencil’s expressions! Eraser’s enthusiasm! So very cute. This is a good reminder as I see all of the 21 in 21 lists and writing opportunities. I’m feeling the need for some space.

  9. I love the creativity of this book!

  10. Thank you, Linda, for sharing this deceptively simple, yet profound picture book. I can’t wait to see it! Wishing you all the time and space you need in 2021.

  11. Sheri Delgado Preston

    What a cool idea for a story! Congrats to you.

  12. Such a cool idea for a book. Will definitely look for this one. And I take it as a reminder for a writer to leave space for an illustrator, too. Erase some of those words!

  13. I love snarky collaboration books where all is resolved by the end!

  14. Jilanne Hoffmann

    I love the teamwork aspect of this. How seemingly opposing forces can join together for the greater good.

  15. Teamwork & togetherness :). Thanks for the rec, Linda. Happy creating!!

  16. This is such a clever book. Looking forward to reading the entire book.

  17. What a cute and creative book. I must read! I created in 202—I used my time at home to write 12 new manuscripts and learn, revise, research, query, and all the other things querying writers must do! I used 2020 as a butt-in-chair opportunity!

  18. Thank you, Linda. I needed to see this today. Wishing you well!

  19. Thanks for sharing. We need more light in our days.

  20. Thanks for sharing this intriguing book with us, Linda. I hope 2021 is a treasure trove of creativity for you!

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