"I Am Not Afraid:" For the Right to Learn: Malala Yousafzai's Storyby Rebecca Langston-George
NO EDUCATION FOR GIRLS!
GIRLS WHO ATTEND SCHOOL BRING SHAME TO THEIR FAMILIES!
To most kids, going to school is what they do, even though they sometimes wish they didn't have to. But in 2008 in the Swat Valley of Pakistan, under the control of the Taliban, this grim message declared that education was to be only for boys.
But for Malala Yousafzai, a born scholar, going to school was the most important thing in the world. Supported by her father, who taught girls and boys together at his school, she continued to attend, even when the Taliban forced separate classes and entrances for boys and girls. And when the Taliban forbade girls over ten years from school, she pretended to be younger and slipped in with her identity concealed under a large shawl.
And Malala fought back. Taking the name of an earlier Pakistan freedom fighter, Gul Makai, Malala authored a defiant blog that insisted that girls should have equal education under the law. Despite being driven out of their home by the Taliban and their schools and homes bombed, twelve-year-old Malala and her father continued their opposition. Pakistan named its national prize the Malala Peace Prize and she was interviewed on radio, television and newspapers. Her face became familiar to all--especially to the Taliban.
TALIBAN LEADERS BEGAN TO THREATEN MALALA, SAYING SHE WAS WORKING FOR THE WEST. THEY PUT HER ON THEIR HIT LIST.
BUT MALALA REFUSED TO HIDE. SHE REFUSED TO BE SILENCED.
"THE GIRLS OF SWAT ARE NOT AFRAID OF ANYONE," SHE SAID.
But the Taliban was determined to silence her forever. And one day when Malala and her friends were on their way home in the school bus, the bus was suddenly forced to pull over and a man yanked back the canvas roof cover over their seats.
"WHO IS MALALA?"
NO ONE SPOKE. THE ONLY MOVEMENT WAS THE GIRLS' EYES DARTING IN CONCERN TOWARD THEIR FRIEND
THREE SHOTS SHATTERED THE SILENCE.
Grievously wounded, Malala was flown to England for surgery and a long recovery. But determined, she continued to speak out for the right to women's education from her bed and soon became an international hero, and after being awarded the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize, she addressed the United Nations with a powerful statement of her own creed:
"ONE CHILD, ONE TEACHER, ONE BOOK, AND ONE PEN CAN CHANGE THE WORLD."
There is nothing so liberating as an education, and Rebecca Langston-George's For the Right to Learn: Malala Yousafzai's Story (Encounter: Narrative Nonfiction Picture Books) (Capstone Press, 2015) skillfully tells the true story of the courageous girl who stood up to terrorism to speak for equal opportunity for girls and women all over the world. Few young teenagers have their world view threatened and their resolve tested in the way Malala has, and young readers will have their eyes opened to the price many girls in this world may have to pay for the education that most take for granted.
Author Rebecca Langston-George's narrative is simple but eloquent, letting the subject provide the innate drama and passion in Malala's story and using her own strong words to reveal character. The illustrations by Janna Beck are done in somber tones appropriate to the seriousness of the narrative, and since the characters are mostly portrayed draped in fabric, body language cues are of necessity portrayed, vividly, through their eyes. This slim picture biography is bolstered by an author's note, "More about Malala's Story," a glossary, and an index, and a reading of it is a good preface for Malala's memoir, I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban.