After January 2009, she was forced to stay at home and read books, Ellick said.
Eventually she was moved around the country where she attended ad-hoc schools.
She still loved stories, and she always would.
Malala wondered on her blog if she should adopt a pen name -- Gul Makai.
Meaning corn flower in Urdu, the native language of the region, Gul Makai is a name taken from a character in a Pashtun folk story. It's not well known, but Pashtun experts say the story is a kind of Romeo and Juliet tale. It's a sweet love story laced with tragedy.
It's the kind of story that a young girl would know and would romanticize.
This was Malala. She toggled between two existences.
She was a global symbol of girls' rights but also just a kid.
In 2010 she met with U.S. Special Envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke.
Ellick remembers being with Malala in a coffee shop after the meeting.
"She said, 'I want to get ice cream...I love vanilla ice cream,'" Ellick recalled. "Here is this girl that can go from being at a negotiating table, a high-level diplomatic meeting, but she also wanted ice cream."
Ellick remembered another time when they were out shopping in Islamabad, having fun and hunting for English language books and DVDs.
"I was disappointed that she wanted some trashy American sitcoms," Ellick laughs. "I kept telling myself, 'I know you want her to want to watch a documentary about Sierra Leone but she is just a girl.'"
Using the Quran, Malala's way
Malala told Geo TV in Pakistan in 2012 that the Taliban could do whatever they liked, but she was still going to get an education.
"We live in the 21st century," Malala said. "How can we be deprived from education?"
Those were bold words, the kind the world knows so well now.
But Malala wasn't always this way, Ellick said.
When he first met Malala, in tow with her father, she was kind of bashful.
"She wasn't as confident then as she has become," he said. "They've received attention and awards. They felt like their labor was paying off."