My Lit­tle Gold­en Book About Ruth Bad­er Ginsburg

Shana Corey, Margeaux Lucas (Illus­tra­tor)

  • Review
By – June 16, 2021

There is an array of children’s books about the dis­tin­guished Supreme Court jus­tice and women’s rights advo­cate Ruth Bad­er Gins­burg. Now Shana Corey and Margeaux Lucas present this Jew­ish Amer­i­can hero­ine as the sub­ject of a Gold­en Book biog­ra­phy for younger read­ers. Their work is more than a for­mu­la­ic infor­ma­tion­al book. They have con­densed the unfor­get­table mile­stones of Ginsburg’s life and career in an acces­si­ble for­mat, with point­ed, excit­ing text and vivid illustrations.

Lucas presents Ruth Bad­er Gins­burg as a per­sis­tent girl who grows to be a strong and com­mit­ted woman. Framed by an image of the scales of jus­tice or shown in front of the Court where she will make her mark on Amer­i­can his­to­ry, she is as com­posed as the sub­ject of a clas­si­cal por­trait. Yet every illus­tra­tion of her also con­veys the par­tic­u­lar fea­tures of a real per­son: her over­sized glass­es, del­i­cate lace col­lar, her oval face, and dark hair. Scale is a key ele­ment to the pic­tures; in a two-page spread of all the Court’s mem­bers, Ginsburg’s diminu­tive size rel­a­tive to her col­leagues con­trasts with the mag­ni­tude of her accomplishments.

The text begins by announc­ing Ginsburg’s iden­ti­ty as a “… HERO IN THE FIGHT FOR WOMEN’S RIGHTS,” but the detailed descrip­tions that fol­low are a nuanced chron­i­cle of per­son­al and polit­i­cal chal­lenges. Corey and Lucas con­tex­tu­al­ize the obsta­cles in Ruth’s path for read­ers who may be unfa­mil­iar with the per­va­sive sex­ism of an ear­li­er era. Two pic­tures con­trast a group of male stu­dents hap­pi­ly build­ing with wood in their indus­tri­al arts class, with Ruth look­ing deject­ed as she stirs a bowl of flour in the home eco­nom­ics train­ing demand­ed of girls. The text explains the facts behind the pic­tures, as well as Ruth’s emo­tion­al response to them: In Ruth’s school, girls had to learn to cook and sew while the boys were taught to build things … Ruth would work to make things more equal for girls and boys.”

Ginsburg’s Jew­ish iden­ti­ty was cen­tral to her com­mit­ments. While her child­hood in Brooklyn’s Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty was a strong, pos­i­tive foun­da­tion, the prej­u­dice that she lat­er con­fronts pro­fes­sion­al­ly is both frus­trat­ing and for­ma­tive for the young attor­ney: Some law firms didn’t want to hire Jew­ish peo­ple. Oth­ers didn’t want to hire women. Ruth nev­er for­got this.” Gins­burg, dressed in a styl­ish tai­lored suit and hold­ing a brief­case iden­ti­cal to those of the men sur­round­ing her, walks with deter­mi­na­tion on a New York City street. Super­im­posed in huge let­ters against this scene of urban activ­i­ty are the words NO WOMENNO JEWS.” After nar­rat­ing events from Ginsburg’s legal strug­gle for equal rights, the author tri­umphant­ly reveals that Ruth became the sec­ond woman and the first Jew­ish woman in his­to­ry to be a U.S. Supreme Court Justice.”

Corey and Lucas cred­it the sup­port­ive role of Ginsburg’s par­ents, who encour­aged her inde­pen­dence and aca­d­e­m­ic suc­cess. Ruth would learn from her moth­er not to waste time being angry” — to con­front injus­tice with uncom­pro­mis­ing zeal but also tac­ti­cal real­ism. A scene of Ruth intent­ly doing her home­work at the kitchen table depicts her moth­er prepar­ing a meal while she glances towards her daugh­ter with unmis­tak­able pride.

Rather than reduc­ing Ginsburg’s lega­cy to gen­er­al­iza­tions, Corey and Lucas build their sto­ry through essen­tial facts accom­pa­nied by pow­er­ful images. The Ruth Bad­er Gins­burg who emerges will inspire chil­dren with her com­pas­sion, intel­li­gence, and love of jus­tice. My Lit­tle Gold­en Book of Ruth Bad­er Gins­burg is high­ly rec­om­mend­ed for read­ers aged four to eight.

Emi­ly Schnei­der writes about lit­er­a­ture, fem­i­nism, and cul­ture for TabletThe For­wardThe Horn Book, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions, and writes about chil­dren’s books on her blog. She has a Ph.D. in Romance Lan­guages and Literatures.

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