Malala’s Magic Pencil (Malala Yousafzai)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Malala’s Magic Pencil, written by Malala Yousafzai and illustrated by Kerascoët, the first picture book to tell the extraordinary story of Malala’s journey from schoolgirl to activist in her own words.

When Malala was little, she watched a television show that featured a boy with a magical pencil. Whatever he drew with it became real, and Malala wished for such a pencil of her own. She dreamed of drawing small conveniences for herself, and grand gifts for her family. As she grew older and learned of children who were too poor to attend school, as well as women who weren’t allowed to by tradition, Malala began to dream of creating bigger things: a peaceful world where all people were treated as equals. When danger and violence descended upon her home city, Malala found the courage inside herself to speak out against it. She discovered that, when placed in the hands of those who fight injustice, a pencil really does have the power to change the world – not with magic, but with words.

Wow. Being a fan of Malala and her work, I was expecting to enjoy this book, but it still managed to blow me away. There are some wonderful kidlit biographies of Malala – we’ve reviewed two of them – but hearing Malala’s story in her own voice gives it a passion and authenticity that is incomparable. It also manages to distill her story down for its youngest audience yet: the length is fine for smaller bookworms, and while the more violent aspects of Malala’s life are not glossed over, they are handled with sensitive subtlety. The art is a wonderful companion to the message, using shimmering gold ink to add the magic of the fantastical elements to illustrations grounded in reality. And the message, that of the power of words, courage, and education, is both timely and timeless. A gem of a book that encourages little ones to fight for their rights and the rights of others, and it’s enthusiastically Baby Bookworm approved.

Malala Yousafzai: Warrior With Words (Karen Leggett Abouraya)

Hello, friends! Today’s book is Malala Yousafzai: Warrior With Words, written by Karen Leggett Abouraya and illustrated by L. C. Wheatley, a biography of the Nobel Prize-winning activist.

On her sixteenth birthday, dressed in her favorite color (pink), Malala Yousafzai stood in front of an assembly of children, journalists, and members of the United Nations and gave a speech about every child’s basic right to education. Malala had survived much to be there. She had grown up in a loving family in Pakistan who had encouraged her love of learning. When the Taliban took over her town and decreed that girls could no longer go to school, she would not agree. She continued to attend school in secret, even writing for the BBC about her experiences under Taliban rule. She gave speeches and wrote articles about every child’s right to education, girl or boy. Her words of equality and peace threatened the terrorists so much that they tried to assassinate her, but Malala survived, and vowed that the experience only made her conviction to fight for the rights of children and women stronger. She continues her fight to this day, using her words as weapons against hate and discrimination.

If you are a regular follower of ours, you know we love stories about brave girls, especially if they’re true! And Malala is a personal hero, so it’s going to be hard to not like any book that introduces her incredible journey to little ones. And while I’m a bit more partial to For The Right To Learn by Rebecca Langston-George due to its breathtaking art, Warrior With Words also does a fantastic job of this. The cut-paper art is surprisingly detailed, abstract yet filled with emotion and depth. The length is actually better for younger bookworms, and the incident of Malala’s attempted assassination is dealt with in slightly less detail, but no less impact. Overall, this is a very well-done biography that would be great for inspiring smaller bookworms with a true story of a remarkable girl. Baby Bookworm approved!

Miss Paul And The President: The Creative Campaign For Women’s Right To Vote (Dean Robbins)

Hello, friends! Today, we read Miss Paul And The President: The Creative Campaign For Women’s Right To Vote, written by Dean Robbins and illustrated by Nancy Zhang, a biography that tells the abbreviated story of Alice Paul, noted suffragist and women’s rights activist, and her unconventional methods for raising support for women’s right to vote.

The day that President Woodrow Wilson arrives in Washington DC to take office, he is expecting huge crowds to greet him. However, as he exits his train, he is shocked to find no one! Instead, spectators have been drawn, either to cheer or boo, Alice Paul’s parade for women’s suffrage – intentionally scheduled for the very same day and time. A passionate suffragist from a young age, Paul is not above a bit of mischief-making and boldness to make herself heard. She organizes letter-writing campaigns, protests, and even a meeting with the president, who dismisses her by saying he has “more important issues.” But Alice Paul refuses to quit or be silenced, and eventually, President Wilson finds that he can no longer turn a deaf ear to the cries for suffrage.

We had a mostly positive impression of this one. Alice is depicted as a passionate, convicted and wiley political force for women’s rights, and she and her story are a great example for young readers. The illustrations are gorgeous, full of life, color, and personality. The length is fine, and JJ really enjoyed it. However, I was disappointed that more focus was not given to Margaret Wilson, President Wilson’s daughter. When the President refuses to read the many letters he receives from Paul’s campaigns, Margaret reads them instead. When Paul is arrested for protesting, it’s Margaret Wilson to stand up to Woodrow and proclaim “Votes for Women.” While Wilson makes the final play for suffrage, it’s Margaret who spurs him there. Perhaps this one should have been titled Miss Paul And The President’s Daughter instead. Still, a lovely book about a wonderful female role model, and definitely Baby Bookworm approved!

For The Right To Learn: Malala Yousafzai’s Story (Rebecca Langston-George)

Hello, friends! In honor of International Women’s Day, our book today is For The Right To Learn: Malala Yousafzai’s Story, written by Rebecca Langston-George and illustrated by Janna Bock, the story of the courage and determination of the youngest Nobel Prize winner to fight for the right to education.

Malala Yousafzai was born in Pakistan, in a once beautiful and peaceful mountain town, to loving parents who encouraged learning. Her father ran a local school, and did everything he could to provide education to any boy or girl who sought it. But when the Taliban took over her town, Malala saw the rights and freedoms of her and her fellow girls begin to disappear as they were banned from school and threatened with violence. Unwilling to give up her rights, Malala spoke out against this injustice, risking her life to continue her studies. Despite threats, obstacles, and even an attempt on her life, Malala continues her fight to this day.

Malala is a powerful figure as a relentless yet peaceful advocate for women’s and children’s rights, and kids can identify strongly to her, so this biography is a fantastic way to introduce her story to young readers. The illustrations are sweeping and emotional, and the text is perfect, focusing on Malala’s activism through adversity rather than the assassination attempt she survived (an event which made her famous, but is hardly her most significant accomplishment). Both the text and the art handle the event subtly yet poignantly; still, the subject matter should be considered before choosing this one. The length is also a bit much for baby bookworms (even JJ), but older kids could handle this one easily. Overall, it is a beautiful and moving true story of a remarkable young woman. Baby Bookworm approved!