The world knows Malala’s story — or at least it knows the basics. She is the girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban. She won the Nobel Peace Prize this year at age 17. Many even know that her cause is education, especially education for girls. But beyond the news headlines, who is Malala? She first shared her story in a bestselling autobiography entitled I Am Malala, co-written with Christine Lamb. She is now also the author of a Young Readers Edition titled I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World, co-written with Patricia McCormick.
Malala Yousafzai’s story is magnetic and also incredibly human. She began giving interviews and speeches about girls’ rights to education in her home country of Pakistan at age 10. She survived an assassination attempt by the Taliban at 15. She’s famous now. But in essence, Malala is simply a girl: a bright, uncompromisingly hopeful one, obliged and inspired to act and speak by her dreams and beliefs, but still a girl. Worldwide media attention has been driven by her circumstances, but Malala is (and always has been) very clear in wanting to direct that attention to bettering lives through education. By sharing her personal story, she sheds light on terrible situations and her own ever-present hope and work toward a better future.
In I Am Malala, the author shares her memories of growing up in the Swat Valley as the daughter of a school principal and proud Pashtun. Her life revolved around school and her love of learning, her school friends’ companionship and her parents’ support made that a joy. She shares photos and stories of her ordinary days, her brothers’ antics, her fights with her friends and her competitive nature when it comes to her studies. Through her eyes, Malala’s home city Mingora comes alive with laughter, community and eventually tension and fighting. She walks the reader through the years of war, anonymous blogging on behalf of education rights, threats of violence and eventually, what she remembers of the day of her attack, her subsequent hospital stay and her recovery. She ends with reflections on her speech to the U.N. in 2013 and her ongoing vision for peace.
Malala herself admits that she is (and always has been) an optimistic dreamer, but she’s also a practical person, and this is evident in every chapter of her story. While she acknowledges hardship and suffering, she is always contemplating how she can move past it and how to find the next solution. Malala isn’t afraid to admit her fallibility and in that way, she is an inspiration of the best kind — an imperfect person doing the best she can, for everyone she can, with incredible humility.
Malala’s own words, from pages 186-187:
“The journalists also ask if I am afraid.
I say no. And that is true. What I don’t say is that I am afraid of one thing: I wonder sometimes if I will be the same Malala in the future. Will I be deserving of all these honors I have been given?”
While considerably slimmer than the adult bestseller, this Young Readers Edition does not scrimp on the importance of Malala’s history, context or mission. It is, in fact, remarkably thorough and well-written. Pages of full color photos, a glossary, map and timeline are included as well. It is both a riveting and an educational read, and appropriate for all ages.
In short, I Am Malala is not only a good book, but an enjoyable, intelligent and affecting one as well, highly recommended for all readers (but especially grades 5+).
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