Again I break from my fiction preference to review another book about these two remarkable individuals: Malala and Iqbal. In this beautiful book linking two brave children from Pakistan, Jeanette Winter’s brings their stories to a young audience in a powerfully simplistic way. Written on an AR 3.6 level, each story is 20 pages and presented in a flip book format. Before each story there is a brief Author’s Note about each character in a broader view, for context to be given as needed to the adults to share with the children listening to the book, or for older children to read and deepen their understanding and appreciation. The sentences are short and the font and presentation is inviting to even early readers. The pictures are wonderful and do a tremendous job showing the intensity of the environment Malala and Iqbal face, while not frightening the reader.
The Malala portion of the book starts with the Taliban asking for her on the bus and like her biography, then takes the reader to the threats and deterrents they made to girls in school, but on an audience appropriate level. It tells how they stopped wearing uniforms so that they could be harder to identify and how even burning the girls school didn’t stop them. It then returns to her being shot and going from the hospital in Swat to one in England. It concludes with her speaking to the U.N. on her 16th birthday.
The story of Iqbal is a bit harder I think for children to understand as they may not know what a loom is or have ever thought about who makes carpets. Also the words bondage, Peshgi, outlawed, and mourners are not in their vocabulary . They should understand that he is sold for an unpaid $12 debt, but that too may need to be stressed and explained. If the kids can grasp this, I really think children as young as kindergarten can appreciate his story. I love that the author didn’t shy away from the fact that he was shot and killed. Even if they do not understand all the facets that make Iqbal’s work so incredible. They will feel inspired that someone so young was so brave.