Malala: A Brave Girl from Pakistan/Iqbal: A Brave Boy from Pakistan
Written and illustrated by Jeanette Winter
Published in 2014 by Beach Lane Books
Stories can help explain the unspeakable, inspire bravery, and conquer fear. As the world faces and responds to violence rooted in social and political forces, it can be challenging to know where to turn to explain such events to young people. A master of picture book biographies, Jeanette Winter shares two stories that sensitively explain but more importantly inspire in her book Malala: A Brave Girl from Pakistan/Iqbal: A Brave Boy from Pakistan. Beautifully crafted with digitally rendered art, Winter shares how two children who transcended their youth and spoke out injustice in their homeland of Pakistan. Attacked on her way to school and shot in the head, Malala has been fighting for the rights of girls to an education before she was in her teens and continues to do so today. After years of bonded slavery, Iqbal became an international advocate for the freedom of children. In 1995, when he was only 12, Iqbal was shot and killed while out riding his bike. Represented as two separate tales, Malala’s and Iqbal’s stories symbolically meet in the middle in an awe-inspiring double-page spread where the two children are found flying kites at the top of a mountain in a fictional shared moment. With clear, concise prose, Winter’s book takes the painful but hopeful stories of these children’s lives and provides us with an opportunity for critical reflection and social action in our classrooms.
Teaching Ideas / Invitations for Your Classroom:
Grades 2 – 5
Bravery: Notice and Name. Unquestionably, Malala Yousafzai and Iqbal Masih are heroes. After reading Winter’s book, ask students to consider how these two children used their voices to advocate for children’s rights. In what ways do their words and actions show bravery? Read other books that feature children heroes such as Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909. Discuss how acts of bravery can be small, everyday actions such as asking a question when you are unsure of something, standing up for someone on the playground, or trying something new for the first time. Craft a class definition of bravery and support students to notice and name acts of bravery in their own lives. In addition, notice the ways pop culture is championing bravery using Sara Bareilles’s music video for her song “Brave”. Support students to notice how the lyrics speak to what it means to be brave especially Bareilles’s call to “show how big your brave is”. Start a Look How Big Our Brave Is campaign where students anonymously document acts of bravery they see each day.
Stand Up for Statements. Iqbal and Malala stood up for what they believed in—the rights of children and the right to an education. LitWorld’s Stand Up for Girls campaign is an annual event that takes place on October 11th in honor of the International Day of the Girl. After reading the stories of Iqbal and Malala, view LitWorld’s website and read about the 10,000 Global Girls Initiative. On their page, they have downloadable Stand Up for ____ signs. Invite students to write or draw about what they stand up for in their own lives or in the fight for the rights of children. Learn more about how you as a class can continue to stand up for girls using social media.
Gathering Details to Learn More about Pakistan. Support students to gather details about Pakistan throughout their reading of both stories. Chart words that may be unfamiliar or abstract to students such as Taliban, Peshgi, Swat Valley, knowledge, broadcast, and outwit. Locate Pakistan on a map or globe or using online resources to better understand where Pakistan is situated. Research with students the history of Pakistan and the political, social, and religious context of Pakistan today. In addition, read about the Human Rights Watch and The International Crisis Group to better understand international efforts to end conflict in this region of the world.
Winter’s Picture Book Biographies. Jeanette Winter is a renowned picture book biographer whose collection of books is worthy of close study to learn more about the genre as well as to learn about the history of real people who have acted for change. Gather a variety of her books including Mr. Cornell’s Dream Boxes; The Watcher: Jane Goodall’s Life with Chimps; Biblioburro: A True Story from Colombia; The Libarian of Basra; Henri’s Scissors; and Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan. Reading across these texts, engage the class in a discussion about the kinds of figures Winter writes about. What do the people in her biographies have in common? In what ways do their stories overlap? In what ways do they each offer readers stories of hope? How can we use her words and illustrations to better understand what makes a compelling biography? Notice with students how these books do not often include a list of bibliographic sources. Why not? While Malala: A Brave Girl from Pakistan/Iqbal: A Brave Boy from Pakistan includes an author’s note that provides more information on each child, Winter does not include her sources. Discuss with students why this would be a criticism of Winter’s work.
The Art of Bookmaking. As a reader, one immediately notices that Malala/Iqbal is two stories in one requiring you to start one story from the front and the other from the back flipping the book in the process. In this way, Winter has reconceptualized the picture book. Encourage students to rethink the standard format of books when publishing their own stories in your classroom. Partner students and have them write their own research-based biographies that join in the middle using Winter’s book as a mentor text. Then, compare Malala: A Brave Girl from Pakistan/Iqbal: A Brave Boy from Pakistan to Mirror by Jeannie Baker noticing the similar format. Use Pinterest to search for different book making formats to provide scaffolded choice to students in their own bookmaking ventures. Envelope books, accordion books, books in a box, and scrolls are just some of the techniques you could explore with students. Use Winter and Baker’s books as mentor texts as well as books like Dogs and Cats by Steve Jenkins and New York: Panorama Pops by Sarah McMenemy.
Illustration Study: Analysis of Process and Product. Throughout the book, Winter uses the power of illustration to draw us further in to the stories of Malala and Iqbal. Notice with students her choices in colors, the use of close-ups and borders, and moments when she does not show children’s faces in both stories. In what ways do her choices as an illustrator reveal more of their stories? What emotions are conveyed? Spend additional time focusing on the center image spread across two pages. Notice how Malala is in color but Iqbal is gray. Notice the kites and how Malala holds the string tightly but Iqbal’s string has been let go. Explore with students what those choices might symbolize about each of these children. Learn more as a class about the process of digitally rendered art and consider Winter’s choice of this technique as opposed to collage, hand drawn illustrations, or paintings as possibilities for her illustrations. Set up illustration stations for your students to experience multiple media to illustrate a single subject. Which medium do your students prefer and why? What effect does each medium have to convey their subject matter?
Critical Literacy, Grades 4, 5
Girls and Education. Read the author’s note to understand more about Malala and her fight for girls’ education. Support students to consider issues of girls and education within and beyond the Malala’s story as it is represented here. View Malala’s speech before the United Nations Youth Assembly as well as her interview with Jon Stewart. View her recent Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech. From her words in these contexts what else do we learn from this brave girl about the power of education? Give students different quotes from Malala and have them write a reflection about how her words demonstrate bravery and the power of education. Read The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney and draw comparisons between the fictional character of Amira and the real figure of Malala in the role literacy has played in their lives.
Who Was Iqbal? Iqbal was sold into child slavery at four years old working more than twelve hours a day. Consider with students the desperation his family must have felt to put him in this position.
Research with students more about Iqbal’s childhood and places where child slavery remains a societal problem today. In 2000, Iqbal received posthumously the World’s Children’s Prize for standing up for the rights of children. Yet, many of us have never heard of Iqbal. Discuss with students ways to keep Iqbal’s memory and fight for the rights of children alive. Consider with students why his story is not well known today despite the numerous awards and kinds of recognition he once received. View the World’s Children’s Prize website and learn more about Iqbal and other children who have received this honorary award. Investigate on their website ways your class can get involved in the fight for children’s rights around the world.
Understanding Islam. As violent events transpire around the globe led by extremists, the religion of Islam and the people in Muslim communities continue to be misunderstood. Research with students the tenets of Islam and support students to notice the peaceful underpinnings of the religion. Read books such as The Golden Rule by Ilene Cooper to consider the ways in which the golden rule is embedded in most of the world’s religions. Support families to have conversations at home about their own beliefs and the ways in which we can come to understand others better for a more peaceful world. One challenge for educators is finding books on Islam that are not superficial and stereotypical. Consult with your local librarian to locate books that feature Muslim communities through compelling, authentic stories in both fiction and nonfiction texts such as Sharing Our Homeland by Trish Marx, King for a Day by Rukhsana Khan, and Twenty-two Cents: Muhammad Yunus and the Village Bank by Paula Yoo.
Jeanette Winter’s Page at Simon & Shuster
Interview with Jeanette Winter by the blog A Mighty Girl
Interview with Jeanette Winter about Librarian of Basra
Quotes from Malala
World’s Children’s Prize Website for Iqbal Masih
Women and Literacy, the UN
Baker, J. (2010). Mirror. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press.
Kahn, R. (2014). King for a day. New York, NY: Lee and Low Books.
Marx, T. (2010). Sharing our homeland: Palestinian and Jewish children at summer peace camp. New York, NY: Lee and Low Books.
Pinkey, A.D. (2014). The red pencil. New York: Little Brown.
Winter, J. (2005). The librarian of Basra: A true story from Iraq. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Books for Young Readers.
Winter, J. (2004). September roses. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Winter, J. (2010). Biblioburro: A true story from Colombia. San Diego, CA: Beach Lane Books.
Winter, J. (2011). The watcher: Jane Goodall's life with the chimps. New York: Schwartz and Wade.
Winter, J. (2014). Mr. Cornell’s dream boxes. San Diego, CA: Beach Lane Books.
Yoo, P. (2014). Twenty-two cents: Muhammad Yunus and the village bank. New York, NY: Lee and Low Books.