A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Readers will glean lots of information about daily life in Pakistan and the politics of the area, as well as other global hot spots, as Malala tells her story (there's also an appendix with a glossary and a time line of Pakistani history). The career and ultimate assassination of Benazir Bhutto are a big influence on Malala. Along the way, readers will learn some Pashtun words and get an all-too-rare-in-the-West window into the lives of religious Muslims victimized by terrorists.
Strong messages about faith, courage, education, refusing to give up, having a deep love of family and home, and standing up for what you believe. In one scene, Malala meets President Obama and takes him to task for U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan. "If God has given you a voice, I decided, you must use it even if it is to disagree with the president of the United States," she writes. When a younger Malala's fight with a friend causes her to do something she realizes is shameful (especially after she gets caught), she's wracked with guilt, especially at disappointing her father. But "he consoled me by telling me about the mistakes great heroes had made when they were children -- heroes like Mohandas Gandhi, the great pacifist, and Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan. He relayed a saying from a story his father used to tell him: "A child is a child when he's a child, even if he's a prophet.'"
Positive Role Models
Malala has a strong sense of mission from an early age and is determined to fix things that are wrong with the world, rather than go along to get along. At the same time, she's a normal young girl who squabbles with her brothers, gets into tiffs with her friends, loves Bollywood and American TV, and admits to being very competitive in school. Her father not only operates a school but instills a strong love of learning in his daughter; he shares and encourages her sense of mission -- and is very conflicted when she's nearly killed. Her mother is the family rock; kind, compassionate, and devout, she also has plenty of common sense.
Violence & Scariness
Malala remembers nothing about being shot; she discusses it and her long stay in the hospital with an almost detached matter-of-factness. There's very little gory description. In one scene Malala is shocked to discover a pile of goat heads but quickly realizes it's the leftovers from a meal. The whole underlying reality, from being kept awake by the sound of gunfire to being threatened with death for going to school, is far darker than most kids' daily reality and may be too intense for sensitive readers. Malala speaks of people being beaten or killed by the Taliban for wearing the wrong clothes, being in a "Western" line of work, or just being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
As observant Muslims, Malala and her friends and family dress conservatively by Western standards. When she first watches Ugly Betty on TV, she wonders if the characters' clothing is so skimpy because there's a clothing shortage in New York. Later, in England, she and her mother see scantily clad women outside in winter and marvel that they don't seem to feel the cold.
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Products & Purchases
The book includes a message from Malala about the Malala Fund and its work and encourages readers to donate; it also mentions the adult version of I Am Malala as a source. Some mentions of commercial products and media, mostly to establish character and setting. Malala mentions being inspired by Ugly Betty and later meeting its star America Ferrera. As she becomes world-famous and celebrities send their support, she wonders, "How did Angelina Jolie even know who I was?" One of the things her younger brother likes best about life in the West is Nutella.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up For Education and Changed the World is a memoir by Malala Yousafzai, co-written with Patricia McCormick. Malala was born in Pakistan in 1997 and became a household word in 2012, when she was shot at point-blank range by a member of the Taliban on her way home from school for advocating education for girls. She later was a co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize and now lives in England with her family because it's not safe for them to return to Pakistan. Malala tells of being inspired at a young age to stand up for what was right, encouraged by her schoolteacher father; of the scary realities of life under the Taliban; and of squabbles with her brothers and tiffs with her friends as she becomes a symbol for the right of girls (and all kids) to get an education. She doesn't remember anything about being shot, and there's little gory detail. The underlying violence of life in Pakistan, particularly against people the Taliban don't approve of, looms throughout and may be too much for sensitive kids. It's an inspiring first-person story of what one teen can accomplish -- and what it costs her and her loved ones.
Is It Any Good?
Many a kid, and many an adult, will find I AM MALALA an engaging, accessible introduction to Malala Yousafzai, education advocate, Nobel laureate, and 17 years old at the time of writing. It's an inspiring look at what one person can do to stand up to wrongdoers and make things better -- and a fascinating window into daily life in a culture that's very different from that of Western kids.
It's also profoundly poignant, as Malala and her family are uprooted and have their lives changed beyond recognition, probably forever. "Sometimes I get tired," she writes. "Some days I wish I could just sit on the couch and watch Mind Your Language or Skype with friends. But I take the work I'm doing very seriously, always."
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.