Stories take us to imaginary places where ordinary objects like pencils, flowers, and even animals or people can symbolize higher ideas.

Symbolism is often used by writers to enhance their writing. A well places symbol can give a literary work more richness and color and can make the meaning of the story deeper.

In literature, symbolism can take many forms.

  • A figure of speech where an object, person, or situation has another meaning other than its literal meaning.
  • The actions of a character, word, action, or event that have a deeper meaning in the context of the whole story.

Take for example the story The Pencil. Allan Ahlberg weaves a great story rich with symbolic meaning.

The Pencil
Written by Allan Ahlberg
Illustrated by Bruce Ingman
(SLJ: K to Grade 2)

Imagine a comical world that comes to life when a lonely pencil starts to draw. “One day that little pencil made a move, shivered slightly, quivered somewhat…and began to draw.”

Gregory and the Magic Line
Written and Illustrated by Dawn Piggot
Ages 9 to 12

‘Take me for a walk!’ cries the line in Gregory’s red pencil. So Gregory draws the line straight, and draws it thick, and draws it thin, and draws it in reds and yellows and blues and mixes them all together. But the line gets bored so Gregory draws squiggles, zigzags, squares, circles and triangles that turn into houses and suns and pyramids and wonderful animals and people with funny faces. Gregory finds himself swooping and diving with the line over more and more exciting scenes, until the line gets tired and Gregory puts it back in the red pencil and says goodnight. A wonderfully fresh and inventive story that tells children about shapes and colors and will inspire them to draw, this is the first book by an author-artist whose crayon-like pictures, warm colors and appealing characters have great charm.