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Malala's Magic Pencil
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Malala's Magic Pencil is by Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl whose work as an education activist gained international recognition, and who was the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. There are a slew of kids' books about this inspirational young hero, but this one is by Malala herself, and it focuses on her childhood, offering the sort of personal details that make her early life highly accessible to young readers. The violent attack against her -- when she was shot by the Taliban -- is handled gently and indirectly for the age group, saying only that "dangerous men tried to silence me, but they failed." The book's a powerful introduction to this young, contemporary Muslim female role model and her work.
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What's the story?
MALALA'S MAGIC PENCIL begins with Malala as a schoolgirl watching a TV show about a boy with a magic pencil. She wishes she had a magic pencil to get her family the things they want, but it never materializes. Then she sees other kids in her neighborhood forced to dig through trash to support their families, and her sense of social justice deepens. When the Taliban forbids girls to go to school, she begins to write and speak out, traveling around Pakistan, and drawing international attention and support. The Taliban tries to "silence" her, but Malala persists, even speaking at the United Nations. She says she at last "finds the magic I was looking for -- in my words and in my work."
Is it any good?
You can't ask for a better female role model than young Pakistani education advocate Malala Yousafzai, and this picture book autobiography's a perfect introduction. Malala's Magic Pencil is told in her voice and focuses on her childhood, making her relatable. She wants a magic pencil like she saw on TV so she can "put a lock on my door so my brothers couldn't bother me," and draw "a proper ball, so my brothers and I no longer had to play with an old sock stuffed with rubbish." But when Malala speaks out for education, adults will understand from the illustration that she's speaking on an international stage and at the United Nations, and will know the horrific story of how the Taliban shot her. The book wisely allows families to choose how to introduce the more violent and upsetting details.
The art is by Kerasoët, a pseudonym for a husband-wife illustration duo, and it's hugely appealing, giving glimpses of Pakistani life and culture. Malala looks like the smart, strong girl most kids would want to be friends with. Though the text never mentions she's Muslim, Malala's pictured wearing a headscarf whenever she's outside. And while her magic pencil draws her wishes in gold, we see the dusty streets, some buildings in rubble, and the "dangerous men" on the street with weapons slung over their shoulders. Biographical notes and photos give the story deeper context.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the advocacy work Malala does in Malala's Magic Pencil. What are the issues she cares about? What did she do to promote them?
What issues and injustices do you care about? How do you think you can do something about them? Can you write letters and speak out, as Malala did?
What does life in Pakistan look like in the story? What can you tell about it from the pictures? How is it similar to your daily life? How is it different?
- Author: Malala Yousafzai
- Illustrator: Kerascoët
- Genre: Picture Book
- Topics: Great Girl Role Models, History
- Book type: Non-Fiction
- Publishers: Little, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
- Publication date: October 17, 2017
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 5 - 8
- Number of pages: 48
- Available on: Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.