Malala’s Magic Pencil

  • Title: Malala’s Magic Pencil
  • Author: Malala Yousafzai
  • Illustrator: Kerascoet
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hatchett Book Group
  • Publication year: 2017
  • Brief Summary: From Little, Brown and Company-“As a child in Pakistan, Malala made a wish for a magic pencil. She would use it to make everyone happy, to erase the smell of garbage from her city, to sleep an extra hour in the morning. But as she grew older, Malala saw that there were more important things to wish for. She saw a world that needed fixing. And even if she never found a magic pencil, Malala realized that she could still work hard every day to make her wishes come true.”
  • Ideas for using this book in classroom or library – I think this could be used in a history class, or world history class and specifically as children are learning that not everyone has had the right to education, not here in America, and still not in other places in the world, such as Pakistan. I think this would teach children compassion, a sense of other countries and the rights that they may take for granted in this country. I would say that this book could be used for older children.
  • Whatever additional notes you’d like to add about this book and why you liked or didn’t like it – I liked the use of a metallic gold to show what Malala would draw if she had her magic pencil. I also found the afterword by Malala Yousafzai and her brief biography enlightening.

I Dissent

  • Title: I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark
  • Author: Debbie Levy
  • Illustrator: Elizabeth Baddeley
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication year: 2016
  • Brief Summary: From Simon & Schuster-“Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has spent a lifetime disagreeing: disagreeing with inequality, arguing against unfair treatment, and standing up for what’s right for people everywhere. This biographical picture book about the Notorious RBG, tells the justice’s story through the lens of her many famous dissents, or disagreements.”
  • Ideas for using this book in classroom or library –I think this book could be used along with Shirley Chisholm Dared because both books show young readers powerful, strong diverse women leaders in government. This book could be used in a history class, or in a civics or government class while children are learning about the fundamentals of how our government works.
  • Whatever additional notes you’d like to add about this book and why you liked or didn’t like it –While this book was published in 2016, before Ginsburg’s death in 2020, I still think that this book would be useful in a school library. The first few pages of acknowledgements shows that the author, Debbie Levy, was given helpful notes on the book by Ginsburg herself. There is a two-page summary of historical facts and real photographs of Ginsburg’s life, a note on the Supreme Court Cases referenced, and a bibliography. I think I would add this book to my Best 50 list.

Shark Lady

  • Title: Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist
  • Author: Jess Keating
  • Illustrator: Marta Alvarez Miguens
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
  • Publication year: 2017
  • Brief Summary: From Sourcebooks-“Eugenie Clark fell in love with sharks from the first moment she saw them at the aquarium. She couldn’t imagine anything more exciting than studying these graceful creatures. But Eugenie quickly discovered that many people believed sharks to be ugly and scary—and they didn’t think women should be scientists. Determined to prove them wrong, Eugenie devoted her life to learning about sharks. After earning several college degrees and making countless discoveries, Eugenie wrote herself into the history of science, earning the nickname “Shark Lady.” Through her accomplishments, she taught the world that sharks were to be admired rather than feared and that women can do anything they set their minds to. “
  • Ideas for using this book in classroom or library –This book could of course be used in a science class, or in a history class when talking about diversity/sexism in the field of science. I think this book can be for younger readers and older readers.
  • Whatever additional notes you’d like to add about this book and why you liked or didn’t like it –I like that there is an author’s note, two pages on sharks, a timeline of Eugenie Clark’s life, and a bibliography. Miguens illustrations are colorful, with blues and greens abounding, really connecting the reader with the sea. I think my favorite illustration is of a young Eugenie Clark pretending to have gills and swim in the aquarium and imagining fish swimming with her.

Shirley Chisholm Dared

  • Title: Shirley Chisholm Dared: The Story of the First Black Woman in Congress
  • Author: Alicia D. Williams
  • Illustrator: April Harrison
  • Publisher: Anne Schwartz Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House
  • Publication year: 2021
  • Brief Summary: From Penguin Random House-“Meet Shirley, a little girl who asks way too many questions! After spending her early years on her grandparents’ farm in Barbados, she returns home to Brooklyn and immediately makes herself known. Shirley kicks butt in school; she breaks her mother’s curfew; she plays jazz piano instead of classical. And as a young adult, she fights against the injustice she sees around her, against women and black people. Soon she is running for state assembly…and winning in a landslide. Three years later, she is on the campaign trail again, as the first black woman to run for Congress. Her slogan? “Fighting Shirley Chisholm–Unbought and Unbossed!” Does she win? You bet she does.”
  • Ideas for using this book in classroom or library – This could definitely be used for a history class while children are learning about government officials. In fact, I would say it’s a book school librarians should have in their library for children to learn about diversity in our government.
  • Whatever additional notes you’d like to add about this book and why you liked or didn’t like it – Harrison’s artwork (like in Nana Akua Goes to School) is vivid with color and pattern. I think my favorite illustration is of Chisholm making her collection box, talking to the other women to convince them they can and should be a part of politics. I think this may go on my Best 50 list.

Ron’s Big Misson

  • Title: Ron’s Big Mission
  • Author: Rose Blue and Corinne J. Naden
  • Illustrator: Don Tate
  • Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
  • Publication year: 2009
  • Brief Summary: From Scholastic-“Nine-year-old Ron loves going to the Lake City Public Library to look through all the books on airplanes and flight. Today, Ron is ready to take out books by himself. But in the segregated world of South Carolina in the 1950s, Ron’s obtaining his own library card is not just a small rite of passage; it is a young man’s first courageous mission. Here is an inspiring story, based on Ron McNair’s life, of how a little boy, future scientist, and Challenger astronaut desegregated his library through peaceful resistance.”
  • Ideas for using this book in classroom or library –This book is still important to use in the school library or classroom. How many kids from minorities like the young Ron McNair feel as though they can’t pursue or do the things they’ve always dreamed of doing? Here is a book showing that those young children can. Not only could this book be used while children are learning about The Civil Rights Movement, but also in conjunction with a science teacher, learning about astronauts like Mr. McNair.
  • Whatever additional notes you’d like to add about this book and why you liked or didn’t like it – Tate’s illustration style is quite unique. My favorite illustrations has to be the two-page spread where Ron jumps on the counter and all the white kids around him look at him in shock.


  • Title: Firebird
  • Author: Misty Copeland
  • Illustrator: Christopher Myers
  • Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
  • Publication year: 2014
  • Brief Summary: From Amazon-“In her debut picture book, Misty Copeland tells the story of a young girl–an every girl–whose confidence is fragile and who is questioning her own ability to reach the heights that Misty has reached. Misty encourages this young girl’s faith in herself and shows her exactly how, through hard work and dedication, she too can become Firebird.”
  • Ideas for using this book in classroom or library – I found another great resource with discussion questions from the ADL (Anti-Defamation League).
  • Whatever additional notes you’d like to add about this book and why you liked or didn’t like it. – Copeland’s text is just as graceful as Myers illustrations. Much like poetry, the text is lyrical. The collage and painted illustrations are vivid and colorful.