A Girl Called Genghis Khan

Today’s Perfect Picture Book is A GIRL CALLED GENGHIS KHAN by Michelle Lord and illustrated by Shehzil Malik. It provides a peek into culture, sports, and one girl’s dream to be free to follow her heart. Next week, the author and illustrator will share their process of finding a bit of themselves in the story.

9781454931362_CCVRTitle: A Girl Called Genghis Khan: How Maria Toorpakai Wazir Pretended to Be a Boy, Defied the Taliban, and Became a World Famous Squash Player

Written by:  Michelle  Lord

Illustrated by: Shehzil Malik

Sterling, 2019

Suitable for ages: 5+

Themes/topics: girls, sports, perseverance, culture, Pakistan


Not long ago, among the rugged hills of Pakistan, there lived an equally rugged girl named Maria.


Meet Maria Toorpakai Wazir, a Pakistani girl who loved sports and longed for the freedom that boys in her culture enjoyed. She joined a squash club to pursue her dream, and was taunted, teased, and beaten—but still continued playing. Then, when Maria received an award from the President of Pakistan for outstanding achievement, the Taliban threatened her squash club, her family, and her life. Although forced to quit the team, she refused to give up. Maria kept practicing the game in her bedroom every day for three years! Her hard work and perseverance in the face of overwhelming obstacles will inspire all children.

Activities and Resources:

Compare and contrast other women in sports. Use the list of “Female Firsts in Sports” in the back matter to get you started.

Generate a list of sports. Which ones are “for girls” and which “for boys?” Do you agree with the idea that some sports are not for everyone? What sport would you like to play? What challenges would you have to overcome?

Maria’s father called her “Genghis Khan” after a famous warrior. What person from history do you admire? Why?

Why I like this book:

Full transparency—I’m one of Michelle’s critique partners and saw this story develop. Maria’s story is truly inspiring. Driven by something powerful inside, she finds her way past cultural barriers and sets herself on a path to accomplish her goals. Best of all, today she gives back to her country and the children of Pakistan. Young readers not only have an opportunity to learn about an amazing woman, but also to learn a bit about a different culture and way of life, and the challenges those present.

Come back next week for Behind the Scenes: “Write What You Know?” with Michelle Lord and Shehzil Malik.


Visit author Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books for a plethora of picture books listed by title and topic/theme, each with teacher/parent activities and resources.

Visit the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge on Kid Lit Frenzy on Wednesdays for more great nonfiction books for kids!


8 thoughts on “A Girl Called Genghis Khan

  1. Now that book sounds like a story I want to read! The title, the currency of the topic, the subject of the book make this treasure a book I have to read and share with others!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So much fun for you to “have skin in the game” of this book as a critique partner. Yay! I’ve been thinking a bit about the title since reading the author interview. It really captures the fierceness of her spirit. Wonderful!!

    Liked by 1 person

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