Standing Up for Education

malala

Malala: Activist for Girls’ Education
By Raphaële Frier
Illustrated by Aurélia Fronty
Translated from the French by Julie Cormier
(Charlesbridge, 2017, Watertown, Massachusetts, $17.99)

By now, nearly everyone has heard of Malala Yousafza. When she was only eleven, she started blogging about the Taliban’s efforts to suppress education for women and girls in her native Pakistan. Her activism attracted national and international recognition, but it also outraged extremists. One day, when Malala was fifteen, two militants boarded her school bus. One of them shot her twice; a few other girls were also wounded. After convalescing in Birmingham, England, Malala continued her studies – and her efforts to ensure education for all children, male and female, throughout the world. In 2014, at seventeen, Malala became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

In Malala: Activist for Girls’ Education, Raphaële Frier and Aurélia Fronty take a closer look at Malala’s story. Frier’s lyrical present-tense narrative, translated from French by Julie Cormier, brings readers into the young activist’s world. We learn how Malala liked to sit on her roof and listen “to the sounds of the city, the chatter of the birds, and the words her father talking about politics with his friends while they drink cardamom tea.” Frier also explains how the Taliban took advantage of a natural disaster to pretty on people’s fears and provides some contextual information about Pashtun culture. An extensive afterword discusses Pakistan, the plight of girls’ around the world, and Malala’s various role models. Aurélia Fronty’s illustrations use color and texture to celebrate Malala’s achievements and bring her world to life. In one early spread, Malala and her younger brother stand on a red rooftop, flying magnificently multicolored kites. Below them is a patchwork green valley; above them, snow-capped purple mountains. As Malala’s world becomes more dangerous, Fronty’s illustrations become more surreal. One spread shows Malala flying to England after the attempt on her life. A tiny figure lies in, or perhaps atop, a two-dimensional plan. An IV is attached to her. The plane soars over blue mountains patrolled by one armed figure and swirly striped clouds to a pile of letters addressed to her, presided over by a pink kitten. Some fanatics may wish Malala ill, but far more people support her.

Malala is an inspiring story about what one brave person can achieve. The picture-book biography should also make young people – and Westerners of all ages – appreciative of their educational opportunities and spark conversation about how social change happens.

-Dorothy A. Dahm

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