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Thursday, January 8, 2015

Malala, A Brave Girl From Pakistan/Iqbal, A Brave Boy from Pakistan, by Jeanette Winter. Beach Lane Books, Simon & Schuster, 2014. $21.99 ages 5 and up

"I have the right of education.
I have the right to play.
I have the right to sing.
I have the right to talk.
I have the right to go to
the market.
I have the right to SPEAK UP."

Jeanette Winter is a gifted and thoughtful writer. Her picture book biographies are worthy of our attention, and should certainly be shared with our children to garner attention for heroes who live, or have lived, in this world. In her newest book, she shares two stories.

On one side, we meet Iqbal Masih, a Pakistani boy. Chained to a loom as a 4 year old in return for a $12 loan made to his parents, he earned twenty cents a day creating tiny, complicated patterns for the carpet factory owner.  Freed at ten from this forced slavery, he went on to speak bravely against child labor.

The rage toward him for speaking out resulted in his death in 1995, when he was 12. At the time, he was doing what 12 year old boys love to do - he was riding his bicycle. He was known internationally for his work to bring justice to the children forced to labor long hours for a pittance.

"And he travels across the ocean to speak out in America.

I would like to do what Abraham Lincoln did.
I would like to do it in Pakistan.
I would like to free children in bondage."

At the centre of the book, in a meaningful double page spread, we can see Iqbal unable to hold onto his kite string as Malala holds tight to hers. She is dressed in stunning coral, Iqbal is dressed in lifeless funereal gray. It is set as the turning point in the book; now, children can turn the book over and read Malala's story.

Malala will be more familiar to the children for whom this book is written. She was shot by the Taliban for her stance on education for Pakistani girls. To this day, she works tirelessly to assure education for all, and recently she shared the Nobel Peace Price with Kailash Satyarthi. Both are dedicated to making conditions right for all children of the world to have an education.

"When Malala was only eleven, she first spoke publicly about the importance of education for girls. Even as the Taliban became more aggressive, Malala continued to speak out. The threats continued, never stopping Malala - until the day a Taliban fighter shot her as she rode home in a school van."

Following her long recovery from the gunshot, Malala refused to step back:

"They thought that bullets would silence us,
but they failed....
One child, one teacher,
one book, one pen,
can change the world."

Two brave children, victims of injustice and terror; their stories are told with spare prose. Ms. Winter's signature rich artwork adds a sense of serenity to these stories and assures that both will be remembered as symbols of bravery and advocacy for all children and young people. Their work on behalf of children should be remembered; this book pays homage to their lives and their work, and needs to be shared.

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