Becoming an elementary school librarian has changed the way that I read and think about children's books. Instead of reading to or imagining my own children reading the books I review, I now also think about my students and how they will receive and understand a book. Also, as a librarian, I can encourage (or insist) students read a book that they probably would never pick up on their own. With all these things in mind, I think that Jeanette Winter's newest work of narrative non-fiction, Malala: A Brave Girl from Pakistan / Iqbal: A Brave Boy from Pakistan is a superlative book, both for the lives that are illuminated and the way in which Winter presents them, in text and illustration. The book itself flips to tell the stories of these two remarkable children, which are presented back-to-back as two separate tales. The center page is a moving illustration showing Malala and Iqbal on opposite pages, standing atop mountain peaks and reaching out to each other. Iqbal, who died from a gunshot wound in 1995 at the age of twelve, is a ghostly grey, his kite (a beloved pastime of his) floating away from him and to Malala.
Winter precedes the stories of Malala and Iqbal with an author's note and biographical information that gives depth and context to their life stories. Following this, each story begins with a quote from Rabindranath Tagore, "Let us not pray to be sheltered from dangers, but to be fearless when facing them." A poignant quote, it also helps young listeners/readers to understand the dangers faced by Malala and Iqbal every day, as they did things we take for granted here, like going to school.
Winter's text is sparse in Malala: A Brave Girl from Pakistan / Iqbal: A Brave Boy from Pakistan. She presents the dangers faced by each child, keeping the (gun) violence experienced by each child out of the illustration or off the page entirely. When Malala and Iqbal speak in their stories, the text changes color and their words are direct quotes. The information conveyed in Malala: A Brave Girl from Pakistan / Iqbal: A Brave Boy from Pakistan is difficult, but Winter presents it in a clear, concise way that makes the life experiences of these amazing children immediately understandable to children who might have no idea what or where Pakistan, the Taliban or Peshgi, the loans that hold children like Iqbal in bondage, are.
I have no doubt that, as Common Core Standards are fully implemented, books like those written by Winter and other fantastic authors of narrative non-fiction will get more, deserved, attention. Published in November 2014, the author's note for Malala: A Brave Girl from Pakistan / Iqbal: A Brave Boy from Pakistan mentions Malala's nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize, which she had not yet won. Hopefully future printings of the book will be able to include the joyous honor and celebrations of her work that followed.
More books by Jeanette Winter featuring amazing subjects:
Source: Review Copy