Malala Yousafzai said “One child, one teacher, one pen, and one book can change the world”. I could end there because its eloquence is moving, but also because it is representative of her. She is a child who read widely under the tutelage of her teachers, including her father, took up a pen to blog anonymously about life in Pakistan under the thumb of the Taliban, and is now demonstrating globally the need for girls’ education and that evil forces cannot win.
Her story is what engages the world alongside her actions and speeches. In 2012, she published her story I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban with the help of Christina Lamb and it has been followed up with a young reader’s edition written alongside young adult novelist Patricia McCormick called I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up For Education and Changed the World in 2014. But the latest book engages the youngest audience about who Yousafzai is: For the Right to Learn: Malala Yousafzai’s Story written by Rebecca Langston-George and illustrated by Janna Brock. So while it is not written or co-written by Yousafzai, it pulls out the essential elements of her story and makes it accessible to educate an entirely different audience than the other two. Children will grow up recognizing her accomplishments, while young adults and adults have gotten to know her since her attempted murder in 2012.
I will confess, I did not read her adult biography until this past summer and subsequently kicked myself for not doing it sooner. In that narration I was drawn to her activism and thirst for life while simultaneously recognizing that she’s still a child with her ultimate comforts being family, friends, food, and a good book (can’t we all say the same?). Likewise, she reiterates her girlhood, though having received a Nobel Peace Prize and speaking in front of the United Nations, in the young reader’s version that drills down to the fundamentals. It is not about the shooting, rather who she was before and who she strives to be after, providing the ultimate heroine in any fight against evil; like Anne Frank, whose diary has provided insight into the musings of a girl in an incredibly dark situation and helped the world recognize that we can all aim higher. Lastly, the picture book, written by Langston-George again captures the essential Yousafzai narrative with Disney-like imagery that does not take away from the message, instead provides a lush backdrop for Yousafzai’s own descriptions like the breathtaking Swat Valley. But my favorite panel is one of the last pages where she is addressing the United Nations in a shawl gifted by assassinated Pakistani leader Benazir Bhutto’s children, where she seems so small in a room of big ideas and politics, with her image looming large on the screen behind her and she speaks the words “one child, one teacher, one pen, and one book can change the world”.
Your aim should be to know her, read about her (starting with these three!), and feed off of her passion.