Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai; illustrated by Kerascoet. 2017. Ink, watercolor on cold-pressed paper. Published by Little, Brown and Company.
Brief summary: Malala would watch a TV show about a boy with a magic pencil who was able to get out of difficult situations by drawing things. Malala tells the readers what she would change in her home if she had a magic pencil. She talks to her father about how she wishes all children could go to school. She is upset when girls are not going to school anymore, because it is forbidden for them to attend. Using a real pencil, she began to write letters to people about how girls were afraid to go to school to get an education and have a different life other than cooking and cleaning. She was even interviewed on TV. Soon, her dream began to grow in popularity causing “dangerous men” to try to silence her. “But they failed.” She continues to make speeches and educates others how girls are not given freedom to have an education.. 2017. Ink, watercolor on cold-pressed paper. Published by Little, Brown and Company.
Comments: Although this is a brief autobiography of Malala Yousafzel’s life mainly telling of the lack of education for girls in Pakistan and the poverty that surrounds her, I believe it is what Malala does not write about that really is the most powerful aspect of her life. She did not write about how the Taliban shot her when she was returning from school. A murder attempt on a little girl. In the book, we see her looking out a window in a hospital gown and bracelet on. The most horrific time in her life is only hinted.
I thought about that for a while. She does not talk about how she was writing a blog under a pen name to BBC Urdu describing what her life was like under the Taliban occupation. There was a documentary made about her the next summer of her life with the military in her region of the country. Malala became popular with interviews, and so on. She does not share that in this book.
I actually remember where I was when I heard the news of this child being shot on her way home from school. A murder attempt on a child voicing that all should have an education? Our children really need to understand just how precious it is that we live in a country where ALL have the freedom to have an education and a free one at that. I wish she added that part of her life. I want the young reader to stop at that point in the book and think, “Wow. She was shot for voicing about the inequality of girls not being able to go to school? That’s insane!” Yes, I realize it is a dream and hope type of book, but sharing that harsh reality that happened in her life may make others who take an education for granted, pause for a moment.
This book could not only be shared with elementary children but also could be shared with teens and adults in world history or sociology class. Questions to ask: What would that mean if you do not get an education? What kind of life would you have? What opportunities would you be excluded from without an education? What kind of life in Pakistan do women have? Has Malala made a difference?
A Time to Act: John F. Kennedy’s Big Speech by Shana Corey. Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie. 2017. Published by NorthSouth Books.
Brief summary: This narrative nonfiction book briefly tells about JFK’s personal life and has more emphasis with his political life of being the President of the USA during a time that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was being created. The two speeches he made that reached the hearts of the people in the early 1960s are not listed in full but with just the main ideas featured.
Comments: I would recommend this book to be used for middle school or high school when addressing and teaching about the civil right demonstrations and the prehistory that led to the Civil Rights Act. Several leaders in this book were cited during that important time in America. This book shows how it all came together. Brief biographical sketches, selected bibliography, and quotes are in the back pages.
Cataloged under 973.922 which is the admin of Kennedy. Note: If you use this as a read aloud or with an Elmo, there are some pages where a white font against the dark illustrations would have made it easier to read.
(I may receive a small commission for purchases made with links in this post through the Amazon Affiliate Program. Books in this picture book blog are not sent to me in exchange for a review, but instead, are checked out from a public library).
Around America to Win the Vote: Two Suffragists, a Kitten, and 10,000 Miles by Mara Rockliff; illustrated by Hadley Hooper. 2016. “Pencil printmaking techniques then scanned and completed digitally.”
Brief summary: In 1916, Nell Richardson and Alice Burke travel across America beginning in New York City traveling in a yellow car with a black kitten wearing a yellow ribbon. Roads in America at that time were more like dirt paths and without maps. They gave many speeches urging and encouraging that women had a right to vote. Sometimes they were well received, and sometimes not.
Comments: In the back of the book, there is an information page about the cross country car trip, an explanation of the color yellow, and a further reading section. This could be shared around election time to help students understand the history women endured to just have the right to vote. It could inspire young girls to not take for granted this right and encourage them to give thanks to suffragists brave enough to fight for them.
Elizabeth Started All the Trouble by Doreen Rappaport; illustrated by Matt Faulkner. 2016.
Brief summary: This narrative nonfiction begins the women suffragists’ history with Abigail Adams urging her husband not to forget about the rights of the women when he and other men were drafting the Declaration of Independence and features other suffragists, women activists and women social reformers over the decades.
Comments: Sections in the back of the book include: trailblazer biographies of some of the most famous women, important dates, selected research sources, websites, and author’s notes. This book could be used with intermediate, middle, and h.s. students for units of voting, women’s rights, and equality.