We see them walk in and out of our lives every single day of the school year. If we are fortunate to be working in the place where we teach, we meet and greet them when we are out and about in our communities. As educators we are a significant part of our students' lives. We make a difference.
Regardless of our grade level or subject area, we are teaching people. We are making sure, through them, hope is always present. We need to ask ourselves constantly if what we are doing with and for them is going to make their world better. When she was seventeen years old Malala Yousafzai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. In her debut picture book, Malala's Magic Pencil (Little, Brown And Company, October 3, 2017) with illustrations by Kerascoet, Malala tells her story for all audiences. This woman believes in magic. She believes in herself.
Do you believe in magic?
Malala and her brothers used to watch a television show about a boy who had a magic pencil. He could draw whatever was necessary to alleviate his problems. Malala wished for a pencil as magical as his pencil was.
She dreamed of those things she would immediately correct; most of them affecting her personally. Then her focus shifted to her family; beautiful clothing for a beautiful mother, buildings to house the children her father was educating in their valley and a real ball for her brothers. The stuffed sock was less than ideal for their games.
Each night she wished for that pencil. Each day her cupboard was empty. One day as she was taking garbage to the nearby dump, the sight of children working among the trash filled her head with questions. After a conversation with her beloved father the value of education and the necessity for all to be educated equally without cost was weighing on her mind and heart. Her use for the magic pencil changed again.
Trying harder than ever to excel in her studies Malala was disheartened by the order given by
powerful and dangerous men
forbidding girls to attend school. Soon only a handful of girls were attending classes. The world needed to know, so Malala used a pencil to journal what was happening in her valley. She wrote. She spoke. She was a champion for girls. Her popularity increased to the point those men knew she needed to be stopped. She was not quieted.
Their unsuccessful attempt enlarged her influence. Others joined Malala and they still are today. This girl, this woman, used her pencil to form the best magic of all, hope for girls and young women around the globe.
With her initial question Malala Yousafzai opens the door of possibilities. In her own voice she is inviting us to follow her on her journey of discovering magic. Page by page she explains how her use of a wished-for magic pencil grows as her perspective shifts. She expands her thinking from herself to the world as a whole. With her words we clearly sense her desire for such a pencil. With her words, layer after layer is being added toward her ultimate realization. Here are several passages.
That night I thought about families who didn't have enough
food. And the girl who couldn't go to school. And even about
how when I was older, I would be expected to cook and clean
for my brothers, because where I came from, many girls
weren't allowed to become what they dreamed of.
I knew then that if I had the magic pencil, I would use it
to draw a better world, a peaceful world.
The matching dust jacket and book case are stunning in the use of color and design. The white background elevates the gold, blue and shades of pink. The golden foil on the jacket is also used on the case. The tiny elegant elements flowing from Malala's pencil are symbols of her accomplishments and the focus of her continued work. To the left, on the back of the jacket and case, a younger Malala is walking home from school carrying a backpack. With a notebook and pencil in her hands, she continues to write of the beauty she wishes in her world. Gold flowers and a bird are etched over a gorgeous vision of her valley filled with homes and mountains in the background. This landscape is done in blue, purple and yellow.
The opening and closing endpapers and first and last page initially appear as a pattern of white blossoms on gold. Closer inspection discloses the blooms to consist of opened notebooks and pencils. Delicate details appear in the spaces. A continuation of the image found on the back of the jacket and case spans across two pages for the first sentence in this story. (I can already hear the gasps when I read this aloud with students.)
in ink and watercolor on cold-pressed paper by Kerascoet and separated by Naewe
the illustrations alter in their size based upon the narrative. The choice of colors placed on the backgrounds draws our attention immediately to the people. Throughout the title the use of gold foil supplies readers with a sure knowledge in the value of magic. The watercolor washes and intricate lines convey gentleness filled with strength. You can feel a power flourishing.
One of my many favorite illustrations spans two pages. On the left Malala is using a magic pencil to alter the landscape on one of the streets in her community. Many of the buildings are ruined. She is reaching up to reconstruct them to their original grandeur. Her drawing goes across the gutter all the way to the right page edge. Lush trees and bushes line a path in gold. Children, girls and boys dressed in colorful clothing, are walking together freely and carrying backpacks. They are sharing their experiences after a day of school.
If you are looking for a book to reflect the impact of a single individual, Malala's Magic Pen written by Malala Yousafzai with illustrations by Kerascoet is a powerful example to share with readers of all ages. At the close of the book Malala writes a letter to readers offering further explanations. There is also another page dedicated to her life accomplishments to date. I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional collections. It needs to be shared with readers often.
To learn more about Malala Yousafzai and Kerascoet and their other work, please visit their respective websites by following the links attached to their names. Kerascoet maintains an Instagram account. At Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schumacher's blog, Watch. Connect. Read., he interviews Malala Yousafzai. The book trailer is there along with another video of Malala Yousafzai as a guest on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Kerascoet is composed of the husband and wife team of Sebastien Cosset and Marie Pommepuy. They are interviewed at The Comic Journal.
Please be sure to visit Kit Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher to discover the titles posted by other bloggers this week participating in the 2017 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.
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