Malala’s Magic Pencil (Malala Yousafzai)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Malala’s Magic Pencil, written by Malala Yousafzai and illustrated by Kerascoët, the first picture book to tell the extraordinary story of Malala’s journey from schoolgirl to activist in her own words.

When Malala was little, she watched a television show that featured a boy with a magical pencil. Whatever he drew with it became real, and Malala wished for such a pencil of her own. She dreamed of drawing small conveniences for herself, and grand gifts for her family. As she grew older and learned of children who were too poor to attend school, as well as women who weren’t allowed to by tradition, Malala began to dream of creating bigger things: a peaceful world where all people were treated as equals. When danger and violence descended upon her home city, Malala found the courage inside herself to speak out against it. She discovered that, when placed in the hands of those who fight injustice, a pencil really does have the power to change the world – not with magic, but with words.

Wow. Being a fan of Malala and her work, I was expecting to enjoy this book, but it still managed to blow me away. There are some wonderful kidlit biographies of Malala – we’ve reviewed two of them – but hearing Malala’s story in her own voice gives it a passion and authenticity that is incomparable. It also manages to distill her story down for its youngest audience yet: the length is fine for smaller bookworms, and while the more violent aspects of Malala’s life are not glossed over, they are handled with sensitive subtlety. The art is a wonderful companion to the message, using shimmering gold ink to add the magic of the fantastical elements to illustrations grounded in reality. And the message, that of the power of words, courage, and education, is both timely and timeless. A gem of a book that encourages little ones to fight for their rights and the rights of others, and it’s enthusiastically Baby Bookworm approved.

Malala Yousafzai: Warrior With Words (Karen Leggett Abouraya)

Hello, friends! Today’s book is Malala Yousafzai: Warrior With Words, written by Karen Leggett Abouraya and illustrated by L. C. Wheatley, a biography of the Nobel Prize-winning activist.

On her sixteenth birthday, dressed in her favorite color (pink), Malala Yousafzai stood in front of an assembly of children, journalists, and members of the United Nations and gave a speech about every child’s basic right to education. Malala had survived much to be there. She had grown up in a loving family in Pakistan who had encouraged her love of learning. When the Taliban took over her town and decreed that girls could no longer go to school, she would not agree. She continued to attend school in secret, even writing for the BBC about her experiences under Taliban rule. She gave speeches and wrote articles about every child’s right to education, girl or boy. Her words of equality and peace threatened the terrorists so much that they tried to assassinate her, but Malala survived, and vowed that the experience only made her conviction to fight for the rights of children and women stronger. She continues her fight to this day, using her words as weapons against hate and discrimination.

If you are a regular follower of ours, you know we love stories about brave girls, especially if they’re true! And Malala is a personal hero, so it’s going to be hard to not like any book that introduces her incredible journey to little ones. And while I’m a bit more partial to For The Right To Learn by Rebecca Langston-George due to its breathtaking art, Warrior With Words also does a fantastic job of this. The cut-paper art is surprisingly detailed, abstract yet filled with emotion and depth. The length is actually better for younger bookworms, and the incident of Malala’s attempted assassination is dealt with in slightly less detail, but no less impact. Overall, this is a very well-done biography that would be great for inspiring smaller bookworms with a true story of a remarkable girl. Baby Bookworm approved!

Top 5: Women’s History Month


Hello, everyone! It’s the end of the month, so it’s time for another Top 5 list! As you may know, March is Women’s History Month, so we thought we’d spend this Top 5 taking a look at some of our favorite kidlit biographies of notable women. Some challenged stereotypes to serve their nation, some fought for the rights of women and children, and some made their mark with art and dance, but all of them were brave, dedicated and hardworking women who made an impact on the world. Celebrating these real-life female icons and role models sends the important message to our little girls and our little boys that women are strong, women are important, and women can do anything.

So, without further ado, here are our Top 5 Women’s History Month biographies:

1. On Our Way To Oyster Bay: Mother Jones And Her March For Children’s Rights (Monica Kulling)


Told through the eyes of two young cotton mill workers, On Our Way To Oyster Bay relates the tale of elderly activist Mary Harris “Mother” Jones’ protest march to Oyster Bay, NY, to raise awareness for worker’s and children’s rights. As a biography, it really only covers a slice of Mother Jones’ work, but captures the essence of who she was as a leader and organizer, and her passion for and dedication to the people she was representing. The young protagonists give little readers characters they can relate to, and the book does a fantastic job of showing a glimpse of what life was like for children, and child workers, in the 1900’s in a way that is striking, but not so graphic as to be frightening. The art by Felicita Sala is colorful, lively, and draws you into the world of Mother Jones and her fellow protesters. The story leaves the reader with the lesson that you must fight for your beliefs, even in the face of disappointment or difficulty, and that. be you man or woman, young or old, your voice matters.

2. Me, Frida (Amy Novesky)


This award-winning picture book biography of Mexican artist and feminist icon Frida Kahlo covers the time period in which Frida had moved to San Francisco with her husband, Diego Rivera. Channeling her homesickness, isolation, and physical and mental health struggles into ecstatically beautiful art, Frida finds herself and her beauty within her talent, expressing herself in ways that no woman in art had before. While the story relies a bit too much on a romanticized version of Kahlo’s marriage (which, in reality, was an absolute mess), the key message is one of self-acceptance, perseverance, and belief in oneself. And in a book about art, David Diaz’s gorgeous Kahlo-inspired illustrations fill every page with life and energy to bursting, and the story of Frida’s unapologetic desire to be herself in person and in her art sends to the message to young readers that we are far more beautiful and powerful as we are, not as the world tries to make us.

3. Doing Her Bit: A Story About The Woman’s Land Army Of America (Erin Hagar)


While technically not a biography, Doing Her Bit is based on the true story of the Woman’s Land Army, a collective of brave women from all walks of life who volunteered to become farmhands and take up the workload left by men who had shipped out to fight in WWII. Centered around the experiences of a young woman named Helen, it follows the story of a group of these women undergoing backbreaking training to learn how to do farm labor, only to have their efforts refused by farmers who doubt their abilities and value as workers. When the hard-nosed female director of the camp negotiates a chance for the women to prove their mettle, the farmers find that bravery and skill know no gender. Highlighting a lesser-known chapter in women’s history, the story does a great job of making the characters and story accessible, and the art by Jen Hill gives the women personality and life. The overall effect is a story that leaves baby bookworms with the lesson that women are strong, brave, kind, and never ever less than their male counterparts.

4. For The Right To Learn: Malala Yousafzai’s Story (Rebecca Langston-George)


While the infamous assassination attempt on women’s and children’s rights activist Malala Yousafzai’s life is covered in this kidlit biography (subtly, yet poignantly), the tale of the youngest person to ever receive the Nobel Peace Prize does not focus too much on that event. Instead, the story centers around Malala’s childhood in Pakistan, she and her father’s dedication to education as an inalienable right to every man, woman and child, and the fearless risks Malala took as a young teenager to speak out against the subjection and censorship of her people by the Taliban. The art by Janna Bock is sweeping and emotional, and seems to leap off the page to draw the reader into Malala’s life and world. This is a beautiful and powerful true story of a remarkable young woman, and it is sure to leave any young reader in awe of the power of education and their own voice.

5. Firebird (Misty Copeland)


Misty Copeland set out to create a unique ballet book for young dancers who looked like her, and she absolutely succeeds. Forgoing the prim, pale pastels of other ballerina tales, Firebird tells the story of Copeland’s rise to the first African-American principal dancer of the American Ballet Theater through her encouragement of a young dancer who is struggling with confidence. Copeland cuts through the idea that the young girl’s goals of being a renowned dancer like her are not achievable, saying that she once stood in the girl’s shoes, and that hard work, dedication, and belief in herself is what led her to greatness, showing that with these qualities, any young dancer (of any color) can shine bright like the Firebird, and inspire the next generation of dreamers to come. With ecstatically vibrant art by Christopher Myers that dances across every page and stylistically lyrical text, this is a ballerina book that breaks the mold.

There it is! A Top 5 that celebrates the women who make their mark on history. Also, we want to include two honorable mentions: I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark, written by Debbie Levy and illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley and I Am Jazz, written by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings and illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas, two phenomenal kidlit biographies about fearless women. The only reason we didn’t include them in this list is because we’ve featured them before, but you should absolutely check them out, because they are wonderful. What do you think? Did we miss any of your favorites? Do you have a picture book biography of an awesome woman you’d like to recommend to us? Let us know in the comments, or message us from our Contact page. Thanks so much for reading, and Happy Women’s History month!

For The Right To Learn: Malala Yousafzai’s Story (Rebecca Langston-George)

Hello, friends! In honor of International Women’s Day, our book today is For The Right To Learn: Malala Yousafzai’s Story, written by Rebecca Langston-George and illustrated by Janna Bock, the story of the courage and determination of the youngest Nobel Prize winner to fight for the right to education.

Malala Yousafzai was born in Pakistan, in a once beautiful and peaceful mountain town, to loving parents who encouraged learning. Her father ran a local school, and did everything he could to provide education to any boy or girl who sought it. But when the Taliban took over her town, Malala saw the rights and freedoms of her and her fellow girls begin to disappear as they were banned from school and threatened with violence. Unwilling to give up her rights, Malala spoke out against this injustice, risking her life to continue her studies. Despite threats, obstacles, and even an attempt on her life, Malala continues her fight to this day.

Malala is a powerful figure as a relentless yet peaceful advocate for women’s and children’s rights, and kids can identify strongly to her, so this biography is a fantastic way to introduce her story to young readers. The illustrations are sweeping and emotional, and the text is perfect, focusing on Malala’s activism through adversity rather than the assassination attempt she survived (an event which made her famous, but is hardly her most significant accomplishment). Both the text and the art handle the event subtly yet poignantly; still, the subject matter should be considered before choosing this one. The length is also a bit much for baby bookworms (even JJ), but older kids could handle this one easily. Overall, it is a beautiful and moving true story of a remarkable young woman. Baby Bookworm approved!