For the Right to Learn: Malala Yousafzai’s Story

UN International Day of the Girl, Oct. 11, 2016

For the Right to Learn untitledFor the Right to Learn: Malala Yousafzai’s Story

Rebecca Langston-George, Author

Janna Bock, Illustrator

Capstone Young Readers, Nonfiction PB, Aug. 1, 2015

Suitable for ages: 8-11

Pages: 40

Themes: Malala Yousafzai, Educating girls, Children’s rights, Pakistan, Nobel Peace Prize winner, Courage, Hope

Forward: “This award is not just for me. It is for those forgotten children who want education. It is for those frightened children who want peace. It is for those voiceless children who want change….” Dec. 14, 2014, Oslo, Norway

Opening: “Malala’s own education started early. Her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, ran a school in Mingora, a town surrounded by snowcapped mountains in the Swat Valley of Pakistan. From the time she could walk she visited classes. She even pretended to teach. Malala loved school.”

Synopsis: Few Pakistani families can afford to pay for the children’s education.  Others only paid for their sons’ educations. Mala grew up in a world where women were supposed to be quiet. Many parents believed their daughters should cook and keep house. Mala’s parents believed that girls deserved the same education as boys. She studied hard, could speak and write her native Pashto language and fluent English and Urdu. The Taliban leaders were against educating girls, intimidated school leaders, and ordered her father to close his school. But Malala Yousafzai refused to be silent in Swat Valley. She defied the Taliban’s rules. She spoke out for education for every girl. When schools closed she wrote a blog for the BBC and gave interviews. She was almost killed for her beliefs. This powerful true story of how one brave girl named Malala changed the world proves that one person really can make a difference.

Why I like this book:

Rebecca Langston-George powerfully communicates the story of Mala Yousafzai through her careful choice of words so that students are not frightened by her story, but are inspired. Malala is the voice of the many silenced girls who want to attend school. She is a selfless role model for girls everywhere.

I especially like how the book begins on a positive note with Mala receiving the Nobel Peace Prize and with excerpts from her speech. Readers will immediately feel the power in her words and her commitment to be the voice for equal education.

The setting is very realistic with an emphasis on Pakistani culture, community, family life, and traditions. It gives readers a strong sense of what it is like to live in a country where the rights of women and girls are suppressed. It is a story that needs to be told and can be used as a springboard for students to talk about the inequalities for girls and women worldwide.  Hopefully, readers will appreciate their education and not take it for granted.

Janna Bock’s beautiful illustrations make this story soar. She captures the love of a supportive family, the beauty of the Swat Valley with its lush valleys and beautiful waterfalls, the joy of Mala and the other girls studying together at school, the growing fear as the Taliban force girls and women to wear garments to cover their entire bodies and faces, and the danger everywhere. Bock’s illustrations made this book an emotional story that is filled with courage and hope.

Resources: This book belongs in every school library.  It will spark many lively discussions among students about the education of all students globally. For older students there is a page, “More About Malala’s Story” at the end of the book. It is the perfect book the United Nation’s International Day of the Girl, Oct. 11, 2016. This year’s theme is: Girls’ Progress = Goals’ Progress: A Global Girl Data Movement. It’s just not a day, but a movement where girls get involved. Also check out Day of the Girl – US. And, today the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize will be announced.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

Lost Girl Found

Lost Girl Found9781554984169_p0_v1_s260x420Lost Girl Found

Leah Bassoff and Laura DeLuca, Authors

Groundwood Books, Fiction, March 2014

Suitable for Ages: 13-17

Themes: Lost Girls, Education, Persecution, Refugees, Sudan, War, Survival, Courage, Hope

Pages: 192

Synopsis:  Poni lives in Chukudum, a small village in South Sudan. Poni wants an education and is encouraged by her mama. She is smart and has no interest in marriage. She beats away the boys who show her any attention. She will not be forced into a marriage like her best friend, Nadai. Instead she watches the boys, becomes a fast runner and swims in the forbidden Kinyeti River. One night the bombs start falling over her village and Poni flees for her life. She can’t find her family and journeys with other refugees to a camp in Kenya, where conditions are deplorable. She escapes from the camp for a chance to pursue her dreams.

Why I like this book: Leah Bassoff and Laura DeLuca have written a very powerful and gripping novel about a strong-willed girl, Zenitra Lujana Paul Poni, who against all odds, survives the trauma and atrocities of the Sudanese war to pursue her dream of getting an education.  Poni is one of the Lost Girls of Sudan. Unlike the Lost Boys, the stories of the Lost Girls are rarely told. Poni narrates the story and her voice is smooth, strong and determined, no matter the challenges she faces. You can’t help but cheer for her. This is the first book I have read about the Lost Girls of Sudan, so I was particularly interested in the story behind this story. Poni is actually a compilation of many resilient girls and women who survive, receive the education, and give back to their country. A lot of research went into telling Poni’s remarkable story. Bassoff and DeLuca met at a conference for Southern Sudanese Women. DeLuca, an anthropologist, knew the Sudanese people, the language  and the culture. She helped Bassoff with the details and accuracy. Their collaboration results in a realistic portrayal  that honors these incredibly resilient women so that students will learn about what child refugees, mostly orphans, endure in war-torn parts of the world. Lost Girl Found is a page-turner and belongs in every middle and high school library.

Resources: The authors have listed films, documentaries and books about the lost children at the end of the book. There also is a beautiful author’s note, information on the Lost Children of Sudan, a map and a brief timeline of Sudan from 1955 to 2011, when the Republic of South Sudan gains independence and is founded. Visit Leah Bassoff at her website.

All royalties from the sale of this book will be donated to Africare, a charitable organization that works with local populations to improve the quality of life for people in Africa.

Because I am a Girl: I Can Change the World

International Day of the Girl – Declared by the United Nations — October 11

Because I Am a Girl9781927583449_p0_v2_s260x420Because I am a Girl: I Can Change the World

Rosemary McCarney, with Jen Albaugh and Plan International, Authors

Second Story Press, Nonfiction, Oct. 11, 2014

Themes: Girls in developing countries, Poverty, Girls uniting to change the world, Social conditions, Educating Girls, Promoting girls’ rights

Suitable for Ages: 8 – 14

Pages: 96

Book Synopsis: Meet some amazing girls! They are from all over the world and tell stories of their lives that are sometimes hard to imagine. In Because I am a Girl we hear of the barriers and dangers that they, and millions of girls like them face every day. Despite the hardships, they have great hope for the future. All are willing to do whatever they can to make their lives and those of their families and communities better. Read about: Lucy, an orphan in Zimbabwe, who struggles to find enough food for herself and her sister; Kathryn from South Sudan, who teaches the younger children in the refugee camp where she lives; Farwa, who was destined to become a child bride in Pakistan; and Fahmeeda, a Youth Ambassador from Canada, who works to protect the rights of women and children around the world.

Why I like this book: Rosemary McCarney with Jen Albaugh, has written a powerful, inspiring, and uplifting book for middle grade readers that belongs in every school library — in multiple copies! It is a wonderful resource for students and teachers. The layout of the book is done with thought and purpose.  Readers are introduced to the stories of poverty-stricken girls who deal with barriers and hardship. Each story is followed by a “Did You Know” section, with facts and information about other girls around the globe facing similar problems and the critical need for education. In later sections the authors focus on hope and action. You feel strength and determination as the voices of the girls grow strong about what they can contribute. By the end of the book you see the girls uniting to form clubs to work on projects that will benefit their communities. These girls will become the future teachers, nurses, midwives, doctors, lawyers, business women and leaders. They will be the heart of their communities, bring growth and change, and turn the tide away from poverty and towards a more peaceful world. This book reminds me of what the Dalai Lama said at the Vancouver Peace Summit in 2009:  “The western women will save the world and bring peace.” It will also be educated girls in small villages around the globe bringing change to their communities and unity to the world.  Many photographers contributed to the bright and bold photographs that highlight each story. The book is beautifully packaged.

Rosemary McCarney is the author of a picture book Every Day is Malala Day She is President and CEO of Plan International Canada, and spearheads the Because I am a Girl global initiative.  She led the call for United Nations to declare October 11 the “International Day of the Girl” — a day each year to recognize and advocate for girls’ rights and end global poverty. Proceeds from the sale of this book will be donated to Plan’s Because I am a Girl FundPlan International is one of the world’s largest international charities working in 50 developing countries, including the United States.

Jen Albaugh is a former elementary school teacher and librarian working as a freelance writer and editor in Toronto who is greatly inspired by the work of Plan and the Because I am a Girl initiative.

*I was provided with a copy of “Because I am a Girl” in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Every Day is Malala Day

Malala Day9781927583319_p0_v1_s260x420Every Day is Malala Day

Rosemary McCarney with Plan International

Second Story Press, Nonfiction, Apr. 1, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 5-9

Themes: Educating Girls, Letter from girls around the world to Malala Yousafzai

Opening: “Dear Malala, We have never met before, but I feel like I know you.  I have never seen you before, but I’ve heard your voice.  To girls like me, you are a leader who encourages us. And you are a friend.”

Synopsis:  This book is an inspiring letter written to Malala Yousafzai from girls worldwide who have experienced educational and inequality barriers.  Malala may be the most famous and outspoken girl in the world campaigning for the rights of girls.  She is their hero, friend and role model in demanding change.  McCarney opens the book describing how the fifteen-year-old was shot in the head by the Taliban on her way to school in Pakistan on Oct. 9, 2012. They wanted to silence her. They failed and she survived and became even more determined to work on behalf of children. In 2013, she was the youngest person ever nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Why I like this book:  This is a beautiful and timely book written in the form of a letter from girls around the world expressing their gratitude to Malala for bringing attention to the barriers they face in receiving an education — poverty, violence, early  marriage, and discrimination. It is a wonderful book to use in the classroom to introduce girls (and boys) to the issues of gender inequality and to promote the rights of all girls to attend school. Malala clearly demonstrates that children everywhere can change the world. Each page of the book is a beautiful photograph of a girl representing a different culture and race with a very simple and powerful statement that they too have rights. Many photographers contributed to this book. My favorite photos are those of the girls raising their hands in support of Malala to show the world what girls can achieve if they stand together. I highly recommend this book.

Resources: The book is a wonderful resource. There is an introduction about “Who is Malala” in the front of the book. And it ends with the speech Malala delivered on her 16th birthday, Jul. 12, 2013, to the United Nations’ Youth Assembly. This book belongs in every elementary school library. It is a great way to discuss the plight of girls in other countries with students.  Encourage students to write a letter to Malala.

The author, Rosemary McCarney, is president and CEO of the Plan Canada team, where she launched the important Because I am a Girl campaign and led the initiative to have the United Nations designate an International Day of the Girl to draw attention to their problems and lift millions of girls out of poverty. Proceeds from this book will go to Plan International.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book.  To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

Yasmin’s Hammer – International Day of the Girl

Yasmin's Hammer9781600603594_p0_v1_s260x420Yasmin’s Hammer

Ann Malaspina, Author

Doug Ghayka, Illustrator

Lee & Low Books, Inc., Fiction, 2010

Suitable for ages: 5-11

Themes:  Child Labor, Educating Girls, Bangladesh, Family Life, Hope

Opening:  “Before the sun climbs into the sky I jump into Abba’s rented rickshaw, my hammer in one hand and my sister, Mita, by my side.”

Synopsis:  Yasmin and her family move from their rural village by the sea after a cyclone destroys their home and their Abba’s rice fields.  They settle in Dhaka, Bangladesh, a crowded and noisy city,  where her family begins a new life.  Yasmin and her sister, Mita, must work daily as brick chippers to help support the family.  Her father peddles a rickshaw and her mother works as a maid in a rich man’s house.  Yasmin dreams of going to school and receiving an education.  This determined girl, works harder and faster than the others and earns extra taka coins.  Yasmin has a plan to improve the life of her family and follow her dreams.

Why I like this book:  Ann Malaspina lets Yasmin narrate this inspiring story.  It is an important look at how crucial education is to a child living in a third world country.  Yasmin is a very strong and passionate character with dreams to inspire her. Doug Ghayka’s colorful oil paintings give the reader a feeling of the sites, sounds and smells of the busy streets of Dhaka and capture the family’s struggle to survive.  This is an excellent book for school libraries.  You may visit Ann Malaspina at her website.  She wrote this story after visiting South Asia and learning about the 218 million children in Bangladesh who must work.

Resources:  Make sure you check out the backmatter at the end of the book as it gives important information about Bangladesh, cyclones, the economy, child labor and special links to important websites.  There is also a glossary.  Talking about child labor and education are engaging subjects for young minds.  There is so much they take for granted.

Today is the UN International Day of the Girl Child.  It is a day “to recognize girls’ rights and the unique  challenges girls face around the world. For its second observance, this year’s Day will  focus on “Innovating for Girls’ Education”.  Check out the highlighted UN page to find ways to participate and make a difference in locally or globally.   You may also want to look at websites focusing on the education of girls:  Girl Rising, The Girl Effect and the Girl’s Education Collaborative

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book.  To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

A Girl Called Problem

GirlCalledProblem9780802854049_p0_v2_s260x420A Girl Called Problem

Katie Quirk, Author

Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, Historical Fiction, April 2013

Suitable for Ages: 10 -14  (Adults too)

Themes: Educating Girls, Tanzania, Dreams, Multicultural, Mystery

Synopsis:  Shida (Swahili for “problem”) is a 13-year-old girl living in Litongo, Tanzania.   The Village elders call a meeting and Shida crouches in a mango tree listening to their announcement about moving their entire village to Njia Panda.  President Nyerere has a dream for Tanzania and asks her village to become part of a new model for communal farming and living.  Known as a budding healer in her community, Shida is excited about the opportunity to go to school and become a nurse.  After the move, the cattle mysteriously escape from their pens, the cotton crop fails and her friend’s sister dies.   And Shida and the other girls are taunted for attending school.  The Litongo villager’s believe they’ve been cursed, and it is up to Shida, her cousin, Grace, and her grandfather  (the village elder) to discover the truth.

Why I like this book:  This is a debut novel for Katie Quirk, who was a teacher in Tanzania in the early 1990s and has a beautiful grasp of the tribal customs, the language, spiritual beliefs, and folklore.  Quirk’s novel gives youth a fascinating peek into Tanzanian life, its culture and language.  Her characters are believable and well-developed.  Her plot is strong and there is even a mystery to solve.  Quirk feels that Shida’s story is an important one for young people to understand because of how hard girls have to work in their communities, the lack of education and the desire of their parents to marry them off at a young age.  This compelling novel will certainly hold the interest of its readers.

Resources:  You only need to visit Katie Quirk’s website to find the author’s photos of Tanzania, a video depicting the life of a modern Tanzanian girl, discussion questions for each chapter of the book and suggestions for further reading.  You may also want to check out Girl Rising, The Girl Effect and the Girl’s Education Collaborative (Tanzania).

Note:  Oct. 11, 2013 has been designated at the International Day of the Girl.