Sharing the joy of children’s books

Malala’s Magic Pencil


For the times we think we are only one person, what can we do?  For the times we think the world is so big, that only the part we live in is the part we can influence.  For the times we think our voice doesn’t matter.  This is the book to change our minds.

“Do you believe in magic?”

Malalas Magic PencilMalala’s Magic Pencil is a beautifully illustrated and powerfully written picture book. Originally from Pakistan and now living in Birmingham, UK, Malala first came into the public eye when she wrote for BBC Urdu in Pakistan, under a pen name, describing life under the Taliban. When Malala was 10, the girls in her village were banned from attending school. Malala’s deep rooted love for education, and belief that everyone deserves an education, led her to speak out against those who would deny it to others. She became a brave and sounding voice against such restrictions, in her own village and beyond. She suffered attack from those she spoke out against, but survived to continue to speak out for herself and others. This story depicts her journey.

The story begins with a description of a television programme Malala and her siblings used to watch as children. The programme was about a boy who had a magic pencil, a pencil which could draw anything he needed to help himself and his friends if they were ever in danger. The little boy was a hero. This picture book beautifully describes a child’s transition from wishing for a magic pencil to change her world, to realising that she has all the magic inside her to change her world herself. Her magic lies in her bravery to speak out and use her voice, to follow her convictions, and to stand up for what she believes in.

The things Malala wishes for as a child gives us an insight into her world in Pakistan. She wishes for the smell of the rubbish to go away, for beautiful dresses for her mother, and a proper ball for her brothers to play with, instead of a sock filled with rubbish. In this way, combined with Malala’s experience of being banned from school and suffering at the hands of those she speaks out against, this book offers readers a gentle and authentic insight into what life can be like in other countries and communities, and what it can be like for other children.

“This picture book beautifully describes a child’s transition from wishing for a magic pencil to change her world, to realising that she has all the magic inside her to change her world herself.”

Malalas Magic Pencil internal image

This book would be very beneficial in a classroom setting to encourage children to think about concepts of fairness, freedom, and values. It would be equally appropriate as a story book for children to read or have read to them, as it is both provocative and enjoyable to read, with its clear and simple narrative, and beautiful and original illustrations.

“I knew then that if I had a magic pencil I would use it to draw a better world, a more peaceful world”

There is a coming-of-age lesson in this book, which suggests that sometimes wishing for magic is not enough, instead one must work hard and speak out. As much as Malala suggests that we must think about others who live far away from us, she also suggests that the world is one big family, and we can all make a difference. These individual and global themes are strong in this book, and again provide a lot for children and adults alike to consider.

“I had at last found the magic I was looking for, in my words and in my work” 

Overall, this is an enchanting and inspirational story, told through the medium of a well-written and illustrated picture book, which is very enjoyable to read in its own right. In addition, it is authentic and carries many themes which parents, teachers, and readers can consider.

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About the author

Emma Coonan

Emma Coonan loves good stories which captivate and transport the reader, whether that’s through a wardrobe, on holidays in Cornwall with five friends, or following the adventures of a small mackintosh sporting bear. When not reading she can be found out on her own adventures, hiking, walking, or searching for her next great read amongst the bookshops and stalls of Dublin.

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