Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yusafzai

Malala's Magic Pencil

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?

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I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy

I Dissent

I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy; illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley. 2017. Traditional and digital media. Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

Brief summary: Ruth Bader, daughter of a Russian Jewish immigrant, grew up in New York in the 1940s when men usually went to universities and got jobs while women married and were housewives. Her mother, Celia Amster Bader, wanted more for her daughter. She took her to the library to read all about successful females which helped her daughter soon realize that girls could have careers as well. As Ruth went through high school, she learned she was good at some subjects and not so good at others. She continued to high school becoming an outstanding student and had extra talents like being a baton twirler and cello player. The day before her graduation, her mother died. She decided to honor her mother’s wish and attend college in the 1950s which at that time was not a popular thing for girls to do. She met her husband, Marty Ginsburg, in college. They both went to law school, got married, and had a baby girl called Jane. Ruth experienced being in a field where there were few women and prejudices against Jewish people.  She had another child named James while she worked as a law professor.  She still managed to work and have two children which was not a very common thing women did at that time. In the 1970s,  she fought cases for women to be in the workplace but also that men had a right to stay home and take care of  children. She did such a good job as a lawyer that she was asked by President Bill Clinton to be a justice on the Supreme Court. When Judge Ginsburg votes  with the winning side, she wears a special lace collar over her robe and another one when she dissents. At age 84, Judge Ginsburg still is one of the justices of the Supreme Court.

Comments: The narrative nonfiction book outlines the highlights of Judge Ruth Ginsburg’s life including a “More About Ruth Bader Ginsburg”, “Notes on Supreme Court Cases”, and “Selected Bibliography” sections in the back. This book could be used in elementary school as well as middle.

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