Review Blog

Oct 31 2017

Malala's magic pencil by Malala Yousafzai

cover image

Ill. by Kerascoet. Puffin, 2017. ISBN 9780241322567
(Age: 5+) Highly recommended. Themes: Education. Prejudice. Women's rights. Taliban. Nobel Peace Prize winner, Malala Yousafzai, has made her amazing story available to younger readers in this outstanding picture book, Malala's magic pencil. Malala came to worldwide attention when a terrorist attempted to kill her in 2012. She had promoted the education of girls in war-torn Pakistan, writing under an assumed name for BBC Urdu. In this book we see how girls are imposed upon by the growing threat of the Taliban in her city.
Malala loves watching a TV show about a boy with a magic pencil, who when hungry would draw something and eat it. Malala wishes she had such a pencil, and put a lock on her door, or nullify the terrible smells from the rubbish dump. But one day taking rubbish to the dump she sees young children scavenging for rubbish to sell. She talks to her father and is saddened to hear that some children never go to school, and girls in particular are kept home to work. She longs for a magic pencil to make the world a safer place, one in which girls can all be educated. But then men with guns appear in their streets and impose more burdens upon women. Malala notices fewer girls coming to class and so she begins to write. Her voice is heard all over Pakistan and further, she gives talks around the country, visiting remote communities and speaking to a television reporter. She is amazed that people want to hear her story. But some people are not happy and try to stop her. They fail.
Living now in Birmingham her voice is a constant reminder of what oppression looks like and how important it is to stand up for women's education.
She found her magic pencil and is using it for the promotion of peace in our world.
This magical story is beautifully illustrated by Kerascoet, a pseudonym for French husband and wife team, Sebastien Cosset and Marie Pommepuy using pen and watercolour to recreate the life of Malala. In the detailed background readers will espy lots of information about living in Pakistan, which will both inform and delight. Information is included at the end of the book about Malala's life and work, while a letter from Malala to her readers is included. I found this a moving and personable story and went back to the first book she wrote of her experiences, Malala: the girl who stood up for education and changed the world (Indigo, 2014) as I am sure others will. I was blown away by her understated reference to what happened to her when she was shot, underlining the insignificance of the Taliban against the global importance of education and peace. In a classroom this book would make a study of its own, involving such themes as life in Pakistan, peace and the Nobel Peace Prize, the role of the United Nations, extremism, women's education, amongst others.
Fran Knight

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