Missed Opportunity

My husband and I caught our breath at the bottom of the sidewalk. Before us loomed our last and toughest hill of this bike ride and we knew we needed to peddle fast and build up speed to make it to the crest. Plus, we didn’t want to run over the couple coming toward us, especially since the woman was clearly expecting and their two dogs on leashes zigged and zagged across the path.

They moved to a lawn and waved, so my husband took off. I raced to catch up, peddling faster and faster, then slower and slower and slower. Any slower and I’d start rolling backwards. I stood up on my peddles as I passed the couple.

“Hello,” I said, pretending to be as fit as my athletic husband. Really, I was quoting The Little Engine That Could in my head. I think I can. I think I can. I think I–“WHOA!” CRASH!

My left foot slipped off the pedal and I fell with a clatter.

While his sympathetic wife gasped, the man ran to me. “Are you okay?”

Embarrassed, I stood without checking my wounds. “Yeah, I’m okay. Thank you.” I hastily pushed my bike the rest of the way up the hill and rode past my husband. “Let’s go home.”

Once there, we assessed my bruises and cuts and my husband said. “I’ve seen that couple before.”

That couple? Oh, yeah. They were such a blur. Would I know them if I saw them again?

That’s when I realized that I acted like a jerk. Not because I fell off the bike, but because I missed an opportunity to express humility and gratitude. My bike acrobatics offered the perfect chance to allow others to be the best version of their heroic selves–and for me to be the best version of my thankful self.

One day we could’ve reminisced, “Remember how we first became friends? You fell off your bike and did that cool, slow-motion fall, with the quirky, high-pitched scream?”MyBike

“Yeah! And you let your dogs lick my scrapes clean while YOU went into labor and we helped deliver your baby right then and there. That was so nice of you to name her ‘Grace,’ after me.”

“It was the least we could do. You were bleeding and all.”

Sigh . . .

Sometimes we miss opportunities, when pride goeths AFTER the fall.


Welcome to KidLit Gems!

About favorite children’s books and the elements that make them shine.

September’s theme: Empowering Youth

NameplateAnnasGemII AM MALALA
The Girl Who Stood Up For Education
And Was Shot By The Taliban

Text © 2013 by Salarzai Limited
Written by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb 


12 and up

to Adult

Brown and Company, a Division of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

Awards: Non-Fiction Book of
the Year, National Book Awards

Once I had asked God for one or two extra inches in height, but instead he made me as tall as the sky, so high that I could not measure myself. So I offered the hundred raakat nafl that I had promised if I grew.

Malala Yousafzai is the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for good reason.  Inspired by her passionate educator father and her political hero, Benazir Bhutto, she spoke out as an advocate for millions of education-deprived girls when she knew it could cost her her life. Then she got shot in the head at point-blank range on her school bus. Yet she continued to express her defiance against intellectual oppression from her hospital bed and continues to this day. In my eyes, she is the Nelson Mandela/Martin Luther King of the right to education.

In I Am Malala, you’ll learn why Malala doesn’t wear earrings; what she thought about  9-11; how she treats her impoverished peers; what a “ghost school” is; what she means when she says the music stopped; why Operation Silence and the death of some surprisingly vocal women enraged the Swat Taliban; who Gul Makai and Asia Bibi are; what IDP means; how Malala became friends with former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown; why Birmingham is significant to her (not Alabama, but England); and how Malala and her family survived an earthquake, the biggest exodus in Pashtun history, government corruption, and the attempted-indoctrination of a brain-washing radio dictator, Fazlullah (Fazal Hayat).

Some book reviewers have expressed that they wanted less history and more emotional content. Granted, if you’re looking for all emotion and no history, this book might not be for you. But if you want to learn and be inspired, the backstory will explain how and why so many Pakistani’s came to accept jihad. And you’ll marvel all the more at the extraordinary courage of the story-tellers: 1.) a still-threatened Pakistani school girl who forgave her would-be-assassin and 2.) a busy foreign correspondent who managed to translate the good, the bad, and the ugly of Malala’s complex life to a culturally diverse world in strike-while-the-gun-is-hot hyper speed.

Thank you, Little, Brown and Company, for spreading Malala’s story. I commend you for your courage and vision.

The United Nations designated November 10 Malala Day. Let’s celebrate Malala-style: “Let us pick up our books and our pens. They are our most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world.”

We human beings don’t realize how great God is. He has given us an extra extraordinary brain and a sensitive loving heart. He has blessed us with two lips to talk and express our feelings, two eyes which see a world of colors and beauty, two feet which walk on the road of life, two hands to work for us, a nose which smells the beauty of fragrance, and two ears to hear the words of love. As I found with my ear, no one knows how much power they have in their each and every organ until they lose one.
~ I Am Malala

~ Anna

“My year with Malala,” The Sunday Times, 13 October 2013 by Christina Lamb

Note that there is also a Young Reader’s Edition of I Am Malala, co-written by Patricia McCormick.

He Named Me Malala Official Trailer 1 (2015) – Documentary HD from Movieclips Film Festivals & Indie Films

GEM Ruby

We want to hear from you!
What book would you recommend to empower youth?


Welcome to KidLit Gems!

Join us in a coffee style conversation about favorite children’s books and the elements that make them shine.

This month’s theme: Empowering Youth

Text © 2013, Trudy Ludwig
Illustrations © 2013, Patrice Barton



Age Range:
6-9 years

Grade Level:
First- Fourth

Alfred A.
for Young
an imprint of
Random House


  • 2013 Junior Library Guild Selection
  • Starred Review, School Library Journal
  • School Library Journal Best Picture Books 2013 Selection
  • Scholastic Instructor Recommended Back-to-School Picks 2013
  • USA Today Recommended Back-to-School Picks 2013
  • 2013 NAPPA Gold Medal Winner
  • The Children’s Book Review Best Picture Books 2013 Selection
  • Missourian October Book Buzz Pick 2013
  • Winter 2013-2014 Kids’ Indie Next List Selection
  • Oregon Spirit Book Awards 2013 Short List Selection
  • International Reading Association Teachers’ Choices 2014 Selection
  • Kentucky Bluegrass Award 2015 Master List Selection



When the bell rings for recess, Micah and J.T. take turns choosing kids for their kickball teams. The best players get picked first. Then the best friends of the best players. Then the friends of the best friends. Only Brian is left, still waiting and hoping.
~ The Invisible Boy

I admit it: As a teacher, I sometimes lecture. I preach. I cajole. And in doing so, I risk losing my audience. Trudy Ludwig, however, spins a sweet story to sneak in her lesson of inclusiveness. In The Invisible Boy, Brian always seems to fly under the radar: Never picked for group work, never invited to parties, never really noticed despite his artistic talent and friendliness. It takes a new student’s arrival to change the class dynamics so Brian finally stops being so—invisible.

I’m normally a text-focused reviewer, but Patrice Barton’s illustrations really step up to enhance this story. When Brian feels sidelined, he’s drawn in black and white, contrasting wonderfully next to his colorful classmates. Each time he’s actually noticed or interacts with others, color starts to blossom on his cheeks. It’s a simple but effective technique to catch our eye and evoke sympathy for Brian. The ending is that much more satisfying when we finally get to see Brian in full, blessed color like the other kids.

Whether you’re hoping to teach inclusiveness, celebrate quiet talents, or just enjoy a story with heart, check out The Invisible Boy and feel your own color start to blossom.

~ Lou




Brian looks at the floor, wishing he could draw a hole right there to swallow him up.
~ The Invisible Boy

Everyone wants to be noticed. That’s why Nathan talks in his outside voice, why Sophie is a drama queen, and why the teacher can’t see past Nathan and Sophie. All of them are competing to be heard. But Brian has a bigger problem. He’s too introverted to demand attention. He’s the invisible boy.

Haven’t we all felt invisible?

Author Tracy Ludwig offers a solution, but it requires a risk. This risk entails looking outside of ourselves. Ludwig reminds young readers, old readers, introverts, and extroverts that happiness is accessible when we share the good that is within.

Illustrator Patrice Barton makes kids like Brian visible with humor and gentleness. Her images don’t reprimand, pity, or condescend. I like to imagine that her other tenderly-drawn characters, like those in Mine and I Like Old Clothes are the family members of Brian and his class–all on their own journey of acceptance.

The Invisible Boy and Ludwig’s other psychologically smart stories, like Confessions of a Former Bully and Gifts From the Enemy offer creative resources to replace isolation, exclusion, and aggression with companionship, empathy, and kindness. Children love Ludwig and her stories, because she understands. Parents and teachers, and counselors love Ludwig and her stories, because she empowers.

Who’s invisible in your life? Is it you? You’ll find a friend in The Invisible Boy.

~ Anna


KEM Diamond

Watch for my gem next week!

We want to hear from you!
What empowering children’s book do you recommend?