Cover of I Dissent with illustrations of Ruth Bader Ginsburg as a child and as a Supreme Court justiceLet’s turn away from the executive branch of government for a minute and think about the judiciary.¬†I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark is a delightful picture book biography that is organized around a principle central to Justice Ginsburg’s work on the bench and, in fact, to all the workings of representative democracy: disagreeing doesn’t have to make one disagreeable.

In this book, divided roughly equally between Ginsburg’s childhood, her adulthood work as an advocate, and her legacy on the bench, Debbie Levy explores the idea of disagreement. We see how Ginsburg’s mother disagreed with prevailing cultural expectations for girl and how Ginsburg herself disagreed with anti-Semitic prejudice as well as elementary school expectations, such as expecting left-handed children to learn to write with their right hands. Ginsburg–and we as readers–see that sometimes disagreement leads others to change their minds (Ginsburg wrote with her left hand) but sometimes it doesn’ (Ginsburg still had to take home economics).

In the last section of the book, about Ginsburg’s legacy on the Court, Levy directly addresses her relationship with her most prominent foe.

Justice Ginsburg has disagreed most often with the legal views of Justice Antonin Scalia. But they¬†didn’t just complain. They shared their conflicting ideas. Each pointed out weaknesses in the other’s arguments. Adn after the opinions were written…the two justices had fun with each other! They didn’t let disagreements about law get in the way of a long friendship.

One page has an illustration of Scalia and Ginsburg, in their judicial robes, leaning toward each other, fingers pointing, arguing. The facing page has illustrations of snapshots showing them parasailing together and riding an elephant together. It’s a wonderful juxtaposition. And a truth worth remembering: that you can disagree with someone else’s deepest-held political views and still appreciate and respect each other.

[And for true RBG fans, here’s one of the best Valentines my lawyer husband has ever given me.]Photo of Ruth Bader Ginsburg captioned "You violated the fith amendment when you took my heart without due process"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy, illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley. Simon and Schuster: 2016.

Children around a globe.

 

 

I participate every Wednesday in the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge at Kid Lit Frenzy.

Sometimes historical fiction is the closest we can get to the past. In an “Author’s Note,” Angela Johnson explains the limitations she was under in writing about the day slaves were emancipated:

I’d love to know how my great-grandparents celebrated when told they were free. But that tale has been lost to time, so I can only hope that this one will do.

In her tender, lyrical text (accompanied by beautiful watercolor illustrations), Johnson shows us the day, morning to night, when slaves far from the battle line received word that they were free. The text doesn’t overclaim, showing how in emancipation how daily life would remain full of work and demands but would nonetheless be “all different.”

Once in a while, historical fiction is the closest to nonfiction we’ll ever get.

All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom by Angela Johnson, illustrated to E. B. Lewis. Simon & Schuster: 2014.

In writing biography, it’s tempting to start at your subject’s birth and finish at your subject’s death. But usually that’s not the structure that will best tell the story.

In this biography of an astronomer, the book starts with her gazing at the stars as a child and wondering about them. We see her work to learn the answers to her questions, and the book concludes as she publishes an academic paper to answer those questions. The beginning and ending relate directly to the story Burleigh’s telling. Sure, a lot of Leavitt’s life is left out, but the book feels complete because it tells one story, beginning to end.

The book is a great look at a girl growing up to be a scientist. The extensive back matter profiles other female astronomers as well.

Look Up! Henrietta Leavitt, Pioneering Woman Astronomer by Robert Burleigh, illustrated by Raul Colon. Simon & Schuster, 2013.