Monday, August 20, 2018

Even One Voice: Free As a Bird: The Story of Malala by Lina Maslo

When Malala was born, people sighed and said,"Too bad...." They whispered, "... a girl! What bad luck."

But her father looked into her eyes and fell in love.

Although many people in Pakistan believed that girls did not need an education, Malala's father was headmaster of a school for boys and girls, and Malala began her school days early, sitting and listening as her father taught the older children, and it soon became clear that she was a very talented student.

But she also learned that in Pakistan women did not have the rights offered to males.

They had to hide their faces. They were expected to marry young and have children.

But Malala's father saw that she was as intelligent as her brothers and resolved that she should get the same education and choose what she did with her own life. But the Taliban, who had taken over their province, disapproved of female education and forced many of the schools open to girls to be shuttered. Malala's father managed to send her to a school open to girls, but one day their bus was attacked by the Taliban and Malala almost died.

But Malala and her family did not give up. She continued to study in England and finished her education there, but she did not give up working and speaking for the right to education for girls everywhere. She spoke to prime ministers  and parliaments and queens and international organizations. She became the world's youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner.

"I speak for all girls and boys and their right to be educated.

One child, one teacher, one book can change the world."

Lina Maslo's Free as a Bird: The Story of Malala (Balzer and Bray, 2018) is an excellent introduction for primary students to the early life of Malala Yousafzai, the heroine of universal education for all. Author Maslo's prose narrative is simple but moving, and artist Maslo's striking illustrations build tension as Malala struggles to elude the Taliban who would keep her, faceless and without a voice, at home. Artist Maslo uses color symbolically, a double page spread, a slash of red and black to portray the nearly fatal Taliban attack, and red to associate her triumph to be "free as a bird" to follow her dreams. All in all, this book is an emotionally effective way to convey the importance of personal freedom and the quest for education for all that Malala Yousafzai has come to represent.

For young scholars doing their first biography book reports, Maslo offers an appendix with author's note, a timeline, a brief summary of Yousafzai's role in education, and a list of media resources which includes books, films, and websites.

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