I Am Malala

Another check mark on my “to-read” list – this book meeting the “current events” requirement of my reading challenge. And yes, education and women’s right is certainly a current event. Even in America it is something we are still battling.

This time I read about an autobiography of a girl from Pakistan – Malala Yousafzai.

If you haven’t heard of Malala, you should really go look her up. Seriously! She is 20 years old and starting college this fall, but she has been in the news since she was like 11. What really brought her to the public eye was speaking out in favor of girls attending school, which the Taliban was denying the girls in Pakistan.

Then, in 2012, as she was en route home from school, she was shot, along with two friends. She was eventually brought to the UK for treatment and recovery, and then stayed there to finish her schooling with her family.

Like the last book I read, I felt a draw to Malala, thinking we were similar despite growing up in different cultures and countries. For one, we both love school. I have known for a long time that I wanted to be a teacher. Well, I’m not one today, but I do what I feel is a close second – library tech. Instead of planning lessons for a class of 30 or so students, I plan library lessons and story time for all 650 kids that attend the school and visit the library throughout the week. No, its not quite the same, but I think it’s something I could live with, especially since reaching that teaching dream doesn’t seem to be financially reachable at the moment.

Another draw I have to Malala is that we both felt our passion for what we wanted to do in live early on. In chapter 1, Malala mentioned that though she “certainly didn’t understand politics…[she] felt a pull to the weighty world of the men.”. Then, when she was ten and learned of the death of Benzair Bhutto, she felt the calling to fight for women’s rights and education, and has been going strong ever since. For me, the call as I mentioned in the last paragraph, was teaching. I remember “playing school” during the summers, and when I grew out of the elementary-age programs at church, I went back but as a helper, preferring that to hanging out with kids my own age. Even at school, I preferred to hang out in a teacher’s classroom during lunch or after school instead of the crowded areas of the courtyard or lunch room. Perhaps why working as a library tech seems like a good replacement for being a classroom teacher – I get the aspect of planning lessons, but without all the hassle of student behaviors, as I only see classes for about 30 minutes a week.

Read my goodreads review below for some passages that stood out to me … And go check this book out! I read the young reader’s edition, but would be willing to read the ‘adult’ version as well, to learn more about Malala’s life from her own voice.

I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World (Young Readers Edition)I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World by Malala Yousafzai

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had heard of Malala, and her story has been on my “to-read” list for some time now. I’m glad its one I can finally check off.

I like how Malala is a girl just like I am. Even though she is from a different country, culture, religion, we have similarities still. I also like how she justifies arguing with her brothers also – “…when Khushal fights with me, I oblige him.”

There were a few lines that I was drawn to:
1) In talking about moving to the upper school, Malala writes: “In a country where so many people consider it a waste to send girls to school, it is a teacher who helps you believe in your dreams.” (chapter 10) – I think this is true even in America. Teachers have such an impact on their students, more so than the teacher may ever realize.
2) When going through the ups and downs of life, the words of Malala’s father, Ziauddin, seem like encouragement when you’re scared – ‘”At night our fear is strong, jani,” he said. “But in the morning, in the light, we find our courage again.”‘ (chapter 10)
3) When Malala offers to keep a diary for the BBC about life under the Taliban and her dad is torn about his daughter being vocal about the same issue he is fighting for, her mother, Toor Pekai, seemed to side with Malala – ‘She gave us her answer with a verse from the Holy Quran. “Falsehood has to die,” she said. “And truth has to come forward.”‘ (chapter 12)
4) When learning there was a death threat against her from the Taliban, I like how Malala approached it when she saw her father was worried. She was calm, but saw her father was near tears and responded ‘”Everybody knows they will die someday. No one can stop death. It doesn’t matter if it comes from a Talib or from cancer..”…” Aba,” I said. “You were the one who said if we believe in something greater than our lives, then our voices will only multiply, even if we are dead. We can’t stop now.”‘ (chapter 20)
5) Malala’s dream, I think, is one that many others agree with, myself included – “Peace in every home, every street, every village, every country-this is my dream. Education for every boy and every girl in the world. To sit down on a chair and read my books with all my friends at school is my right. Te see each and every human being with a smile of true happiness is my wish.” – and as stated when she addressed the United Nations – “One child, one teacher, one pen, and one book can change the world.” (epilogue)

Shooting Kabul

I know your initial thought on that title is that this has something to do with guns. But actually, the “shooting” refers to a camera, one of the items Fadi brings with him when his family escapes from the Taliban in Afghanistan to refuge in America.

This book meets the challenge of an immigration story.

It is a fiction story based in 200-2001, but it is based on the real-life story of the author’s husband’s family’s escape in the 1970s.

I enjoyed this book, and would be willing to add it to my school’s library collection. It is something I think could help students better understand the many refugees that are coming from the Middle East.

Below is my goodreads summary/thoughts:

Shooting KabulShooting Kabul by N.H. Senzai

I don’t remember where I heard about this book, but I chose it because I needed an immigration story for my yearly reading challenge.

This story is one I think any immigrant can relate to, especially those coming from the Middle East. It is a fiction story set in 2000-2001, but it was based on the author’s husband’s real-life back in 1970s.

As Fadi and his family are fleeing the Taliban for freedom, his younger sister Miriam is lost in the crowd. Fadi feels guilty and responsible that she is not with them when the family reaches America. He has a hard time adjusting until he hears about a photography club in his middle school. The grand prize winner gets to pick their choice of destination, including India. He has now figured out his chance to save his sister and return honor to his family.

When his camera is destroyed by some bullies in the wake of 9/11, Fadi losses all hope of finding his sister. The winner of the photography contest is announced and at the ceremony, a certain photograph catches his attention.

I liked how Fadi and I have something in common – photography. We both enjoy taking photos. It bridged the cultural gap and helped me relate to him. I also liked how he found inspiration and could relate to the book From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler in aspects of his flight and new life in America. His struggle in the toy store is something I think people who have gone through traumatic events can relate to – something so simple triggering those feelings buried down deep.

Definitely a book for older kids to read to help them put themselves in the shoes of some of the refugees that are entering their classrooms.

The author wrote a second book in which Fadi’s younger sister appears, and I’m interested in seeing how she too has adjusted to life in America.

The Girl Who Drank the Moon

Anyone a fan of The Giver by Lois Lowry? If so, then I have a book recommendation from you.

This book won the 2017 Newbery Award and is about a girl who is given as an offering from her town to the witch in the wood. Why is she given up as an offering? Well, she was the first born child since the last offering. Why does the town offer the first born? To make the witch happy. What happens when they leave the child behind for offering? Well, no one knows for sure, but probably the child is eaten or starves to death or gets too cold. After all, no one has seen the witch. She’s just a story that is told.

But when this particular child is given the moon to drink, things change for the witch, and the town. A mother goes mad, a nephew is attacked by paper birds, and a girl keeps things hidden from her grandmother.

In the end, a mother and daughter are reunited, a town comes out from under the clouds of sorrow, and the truth about the witch is finally revealed.

Take a read for yourself and let me know what you think.

(Below you have my goodreads summary as well…)

The Girl Who Drank the MoonThe Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

The book slightly reminded me of The Giver as the Protectorate follows some customs (leaving a baby as an offering) without anyone really understanding why. Then when a particular child is left one year, the reason behind the offering starts to be revealed to the reader.

The different story lines are intertwined with a story told in italics.

I think it would make kids wonder who is the good guy or the bad guy, and are they really that way or is it our perception that makes it so.

Well written and a different twist on a story makes it easy to see why Kelly won the Newbery for this novel.

View all my reviews

Teachers Write – A Letter to Myself

Teachers Write officially ended yesterday (Friday). As you can tell from my blog posts, I wasn’t as active at the end as I was in the beginning, though I did still read each post. All in all, I do feel it was a worth-while experience and I learned things through it, about myself as a writer and about writing in general. I’m excited to find ways to share it with my school site, teachers and students both.

The last prompt from Kate was to write a letter to ourselves before we started this four-week journey. Below is mine…


Dear Stephanie,

You are about to embark on a scary journey – sharing your writing for the first time with the world. Sure you’ve shared it to a few people, but now you will share small paragraphs for anyone on the internet to see.

I know, it seems scary. You’re wondering if people will listen to what you have to say. You are wondering how supportive people will be. You are wondering if what you have to those jumbled letters on paper are even worth sharing.

Let me assure you that yes, people do want to hear what you have to say. And this group is the perfect group to begin sharing with, as they are just as scared as you. And because it’s a community of educators, they understand that people learn by making mistakes. And yes, people are curious how you make jumbled letters into something worth reading.

You may not participate in all the prompts. You may not even get far in your own story during this time frame. But I will promise you that at the end, you will feel as though you made some progress and learned something, and yes, you will want to do it again.

You will fall even more in love with writing and will start planning on how to share what you’ve read and learned from the various authors, both with the students at your school as well as the teachers.

So get ready … and WRITE!