Myra here.

We are delighted to join the Nonfiction Picture Book meme 2017 hosted by Alyson Beecher @ Kid Lit Frenzy. We would also be linking our nonfiction choices with our reading themes throughout the year.

Malala’s Magic Pencil

Written by Malala Yousafzai
Illustrated by Kerascoët
Published by Puffin Books (2017)

Literary Award Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Picture Books (2017)
ISBN-10: 0316319570
ISBN-13: 9780316319577
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public LibraryBook photos taken by me.

This book is technically not about (im)migration or the refugee experience. However, it is to be noted that Malala Yousafzai (who, by now, is known the world over) was born in Pakistan – but now live with her family in the UK. She is essentially “writing home” in this gorgeous picturebook biography of hers as she describes what inspired her to pursue a vision of a just society, and a just world where everyone can have access to education; the same vision that nearly killed her and forced her entire family to flee and relocate to a different country – although that latter part is not the focus of the book.

I have read quite a few of her PBBs, but this, I have to admit, ranks as my favourite. The highlight here, which forms the core of the narrative, is inspired by this TV show about a boy with a magic pencil that he uses to draw every little thing he needs. Malala’s note at the end of the book indicated that this show is called Shaka Laka Boom Boom. I searched Youtube and found this trailer – not sure though if this is what Malala watched as a child:

This idea enamoured Malala so much that she wished that she had the same magic pencil that would transform the squalid surroundings she sees around her to something different, something beautiful.

What appealed to me about this book is her sense of agency, and her keen eye about what is going on around her, that compelled her to right an injustice. What struck most to her mind was this particular sight which made her realize how fortunate she is that she belonged to a family who believed that she is entitled to an education:

As her father explained:

Because, jani, in our country not everyone sends their daughters to school. And some children must work to support their family. Those boys will sell the metal scraps they find. If they went to school, their families would go hungry.

When “powerful and dangerous men” walked the streets of Malala’s city, things changed even more drastically, especially for young girls who were forbidden to attend school.

Over and above the empowering message, I was also moved by the sense of place that was accomplished through Kerascoët’s art. The pile of rubble, the gouged-out buildings, the laundry hanging on strings behind walled fences – the sense of home can be smelled, tasted, felt through the pages. The information found at the end of the book also solidifies how this book remains a perfect fit for our current reading theme:

Malala and her family now live in Birmingham, England, and she travels the world speaking about the importance of education for all. In 2013, she started Malala Fund, which has since opened schools for girls in Pakistan, as well as in Lebanon and Jordan for Syrian refugees. Of the over 130 million girls who are out of school, many are refugees.

This is one book that should definitely be added to your Malala PBBs. I reviewed one a year ago – click on the image to be taken to the Book Depository link and the title to be taken to my post:

Rebel Children Who ‘Wildly’ Fought for their Right to Education in Picturebooks

Fats has done several features of other titles which you can check out by clicking on the title of the posts, and the images to be taken to Book Depository.

Malala’s Relentless Fight for Girls’ Education

Her Name is Malala, a Warrior with Words Who Fought for the Right to Learn

Free Delivery on all Books at the Book Depository

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

4 comments on “[Nonfiction Wednesday] Writing Home and Writing Peace Using “Malala’s Magic Pencil”

  1. I am looking forward to reading Malala’s Magic Pencil, know it will be wonderful! Thanks, Myra, and have a wonderful holiday!


  2. I really liked this one! I thought it might be a bit commercialized, but I was wrong! Just a beautiful story.


  3. Pingback: [Saturday Reads] My 2017 in Books, Reading Stats, and Best Books Read in 2017 Across Genres – Gathering Books

  4. Pingback: [Nonfiction Wednesday] Adding to the Growing PBB List of Malala with Lina Maslo’s “Free As A Bird” – Gathering Books

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