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 WOMEN … NO 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 Tablet, The Forward, The Horn Book, and other publications, and writes about children’s books on her blog. She has a Ph.D. in Romance Languages and Literatures.