Malala, a Brave Girl from Pakistan/Iqbal, a Brave Boy from Pakistan

Book review by
Jan Carr, Common Sense Media
Malala, a Brave Girl from Pakistan/Iqbal, a Brave Boy from Pakistan Book Poster Image
Two true, inspiring stories about child activists.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Information about life and culture in Pakistan. 

Positive Messages

Children can be brave, even when powerful adults oppose them. It's important to do what's right. Lessons about bravery, standing up for one's rights, and leading others to do the same.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The two protagonists are dramatically positive role models. They're brave despite serious threats to their lives.

Violence & Scariness

Malala is shot by the Taliban. Iqbal is shot and killed. These incidents are stated but not graphically described. Both children face serious threats because they speak out. Iqbal was forced to work grueling hours in grim conditions in a carpet factory. He was "chained to the loom, lest he try to escape." The art shows him being pulled unwillingly into the factory. 


What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Malala, a Brave Girl from Pakistan/Iqbal, a Brave Boy from Pakistan profiles two children who are dramatic models of courage. The first is Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani advocate for female education and co-recipient of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize, who was shot by the Taliban. The second is Iqbal Masih, a Pakistani boy who was indentured in a carpet factory, fought against child labor and bondage, and was shot and killed at age 12. The violence may be frightening to young kids, to sensitive kids, or to those who've experienced violence themselves. Veteran author/illustrator Jeanette Winter (Follow the Drinking Gourd) handles the material with sensitivity for the age group, and the book can introduce kids to important issues of human rights.

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What's the story?

MALALA, A BRAVE GIRL FROM PAKISTAN/IQBAL, A BRAVE BOY FROM PAKISTAN tells two true, separate stories of bravery. Both of the children profiled are Pakistani, both stood up very publicly for human rights, and both were shot by those who opposed them. Malala's story is now well-known: She attended a girls' school in Swat Valley, Pakistan, where the Taliban opposed education for girls. Though they targeted Malala, she went on to become a celebrated advocate for girls' rights and education. Iqbal was a child laborer who was bound by family debt to work in a carpet factory. After he spoke out against child labor and bondage, he was killed. Each story is told separately, and the reader physically turns the book over to start the other on the flip side.

Is it any good?

Winter is an acclaimed author/illustrator and picture-book biographer who sensitively handles difficult, cross-cultural subjects, and her colorful, folk-art-inspired illustration suits the subject. Small, telling human details help kids relate; Malala and her friends wear regular clothes over their school uniforms to disguise the fact that they're going to school; Iqbal weaves tiny kite patterns into his rug, ones the boss can't see. In an evocative center spread, the children reach out to each other via kites that soar between them, a powerful visual reminder that their stories are intertwined.

 Malala and Iqbal's stories are inspirational and can introduce young readers to life in a country less free than their own.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the realities of children's lives in other cultures. What are children's lives like in Pakistan? How are they different from yours? How do you think they're the same?

  • What do you think you would do if you were Malala or Iqbal?

  • How would you feel if someone said you couldn't go to school?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love strong girl characters and characters of color

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