April 25, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Great Titles About 2014 Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Malala Yousafzai

At just 17, Malala Yousafzai, the courageous crusader for girls’ education in Pakistan and around the world, becomes the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. She shares the award with 60-year-old Kailash Satyarthi, an educational reformer from India who has campaigned for children’s rights.

In 2012, Malala became a household name when she was shot in the head by the Taliban. Already an outspoken opponent of the Taliban’s ban on girls’ education, the teenager rose to become an international figure in the movement for educational rights, and authored a book about her experience, I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban (Little, Brown, 2013). Within a few years, she joined the UN Secretary General’s Global Education First Initiative, had a day named after her (July 14), and in 2013, she appeared on the cover of Time magazine, profiled as one of the “100 Most Influential People in the World.” The teen continues to fight for the rights of children across the globe—even in the face of death threats to herself and her family.

Several new and upcoming books tell the tale of this heroic young woman. These affecting and inspiring portraits will spark discussion and inspire. To learn more about Malala, visit her website.

Every Day is Malala DayEvery Day Is Malala Day. by Rosemary McCarney. 32p. photos. Second Story. 2014. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781927583319.
Gr 2-4–This picture gallery from the president of Plan Canada, an organization whose mission is to improve the quality of life for children in developing countries, opens with a photo and brief introduction to Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani student who was shot for her outspoken support of girls’ education. Each page features an evocative, captioned image, such as a barefoot child bride in wedding finery and a single girl, dressed in pink, surrounded by glaring boys in blue. Addressed to Malala, the simple text reads like an admiring letter to this articulate and inspiring spokesperson for social justice. Though readers may come away assuming that the subjects in the photographs actually spoke these words, the “Acknowledgements” page clarifies that, in fact, Plan Canada produced a film depicting girls from all over the world writing to Malala; images from Plan’s own collection were chosen to illustrate the girls’ words. Back matter includes photo credits, author acknowledgements, and excerpts from Malala’s July 2013 speech to the United Nations, which ended with the words, “One child, one teacher, one pen Malalaand one book can change the world.” An effective introduction to an important social justice issue.–Toby Rajput, National Louis University, Skokie, IL

I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World, by Malala Yousafzai. 240 p. Little, Brown. 2014. Tr $17. ISBN 9780316327930.
Gr 5 Up–In this young readers’ edition of the best-selling memoir, Yousafzai discusses the shooting that changed her life and explains the sociopolitical factors that led up to it, detailing in accessible and age-appropriate terms factors such as the rise of the Taliban. An inspiring and humanizing portrait of a role model who will resonate with children and teens.

Malala, a Brave Girl from Pakistan/Iqbal, a Brave Boy from Pakistan. by Jeanette Winter. illus. by Malala a brave girlauthor. 40p. ebook available. S. & S./Beach Lane. Nov. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481422949.
Gr 2-4–Author and illustrator Winter, known for such works as The Librarian of Basra (Houghton Harcourt, 2005) and Nasreen’s Secret School (S. & S., 2009), once again tackles the topic of humanitarian activism amid political violence in this two-in-one picture book. Malala Yousafzai, a young proponent of girls’ education, came to the world’s attention after being shot in the head by the Taliban in 2012. The corresponding story of Iqbal Masih, a young anti–child labor activist from 20 years earlier, is less well known—and has much less of a happy ending: the boy was shot and killed at age 12. Like Winter’s earlier works, simple sentences and repetition (“Still Malala speaks out”) give the story an accessible rhythm, and illustrations consisting of bold colors and shapes, each framed by a colorful geometric pattern, indicate moods ranging from the light pink of mourning to the bold orange and purple of defiance. The two stories are linked by a shared, wordless center spread featuring a kite motif from Masih’s story. (The attentive viewer may note the symbolism in the choice to show Iqbal, in muted gray, as having let go of his kite, while Yousafzai, in full color, holds hers tightly.) The need to rotate the book physically in order to read each story adds a tactical element to the reading experience. Direct quotes from the young activists appear in red and purple respectively, and while author’s notes provide background, this title lacks a bibliography of primary sources. Overall, a sensitive, age-appropriate treatment of a difficult but important topic.–Jill Ratzan, I. L. Peretz Community Jewish School, Somerset, NJ

MalalaMalala Yousafzai and the Girls of Pakistan. by David Aretha. 64p. (Out in Front). bibliog. chron. index. notes. photos. websites. Morgan Reynolds. 2014. lib. ed. $27.45. ISBN 9781599354545; ebk. ISBN 9781599354552. LC 2013044510.
Gr 7 Up–The story of Malala Yousafzai’s life so far is remarkable in how much she has accomplished in such a short time. By the time she was 11, she was blogging under a pseudonym about education for the BBC Urdu website. She wrote candidly about the Taliban and their efforts to block girls’ access to schools. Two years later, she was nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize but less than a year after that she was shot in the face by a Taliban assassin, an attempt on her life that she had feared as the Taliban threats on her life grew. Yousafzai’s eventual recovery and continued activism is a demonstration of bravery and conviction and perhaps the most impressive and inspiring aspect of Aretha’s biography. However, the author takes care to describe the role of Ziauddin Yousafzai, Malala’s father, in the teenager’s activism. An outspoken educator and believer in girls’ education, Ziauddin Yousafzai often appeared and spoke with his daughter. To give additional context, Aretha includes inserted spreads on Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan’s first female prime minister; the Taliban; and facts about being a woman in Pakistan. The extensive use of colorful photos will help readers visualize this teenager’s world. Although the tone is somewhat dry and journalistic, readers will find well-sourced information that will be a good starting place for research.–Joy Piedmont, LREI, New York City

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban. by Malala i am malalaYousafzai with Christina Lamb. 327p. chron. glossary. photos. Little, Brown. 2013. Tr $26. ISBN 9780316322409. LC 2013941811.

Adult/High School–Who is Malala, the girl who was shot by the Taliban on her way home from school, who gave a speech at the United Nations on her  16th birthday, the youngest person nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize? One must start in her beloved Swat Valley in Pakistan. Its history is complicated, but Mingora was basically peaceful until the Taliban began to infiltrate. One must understand Malala’s relationship with her father, whose work as an educator shaped and encouraged his daughter’s passion. Malala always loved going to school, and she was frequently at the top of her class. In lyrical writing that touches on the natural world and love for God, her achievements and honors alternate with stories of time spent with friends and family, illuminating Pakistani culture along the way. Malala believes that change is possible, that education is a basic human right, even in a region caught between a corrupt army and the Taliban. She frequently spoke in person and on television, and wrote a blog for the BBC under a pseudonym. She believed that God would protect her, that it was her duty to speak up for the rights of girls. Following the shooting, the account of Malala’s miraculous recovery is especially compelling. Her parents were stuck in Swat, so she spent those terrible days alone at a Pakistani army hospital ill-equipped to give her  the care she required. Now she is obviously lonely, living under guard in Birmingham, England. She misses her friends and teachers. She is determined to return to Pakistan. Meanwhile, her school keeps an empty desk and chair waiting for her.Angela Carstensen, Convent of the Sacred Heart, New York City


Kiera Parrott About Kiera Parrott

Kiera Parrott is the reviews director for School Library Journal and Library Journal and a former children's librarian. Her favorite books are ones that make her cry—or snort—on public transportation.



  1. Nancy Johnson says:

    Thanks for this list — I was surprised not to see I AM MALALA: HOW ONE GIRL STOOD UP FOR EDUCATION AND CHANGED THE WORLD which was written for young readers (Malala’s collaboration with Patricia McCormick, published by Little, Brown in August 2014) on this list. Malala herself claims this book felt more like her story while the adult version felt more like her father’s story. I hope readers of SLJ will add it to this list.

    • Kiera Parrott Kiera Parrott says:

      Seconded, Nancy! We didn’t have a formal review for the young readers edition to include in the above list, but I personally recommended it. It is especially good for middle grade readers, for whom the adult version would not work. It is a stunning and powerful story, beautifully told.