This is the third picture book biography of Ruth Bader Ginsburg to appear in two years. For fans of the legendary Supreme Court justice, it is a welcome addition to the expanding canon of works that aims to introduce her struggles and achievements to young readers.
Krull is a veteran author of picture book biographies, including the popular Lives Of series based on the contributions of accomplished artists, presidents, scientists, and athletes. Her collaboration with Zhang gives us a fresh and enthusiastic portrait of Ginsburg that complements the previous two biographies. Krull’s information-rich text and Zhang’s dramatic images bring their subject to life with subtlety and passion.
The book is beautifully designed, with bold typography by Zegar. The dedication page is accompanied by a drawing of an enormous stack of books, establishing — even before her story begins—how central reading was to young Ruth’s life. On the beginning pages, a picture of the adult Ginsburg follows a series of black and white portraits of some of her venerable predecessors: Ida B. Wells, Alice Paul, Virginia Woolf, and Susan B. Anthony. This adds essential context, establishing that Ginsburg is part of a long tradition of activism for women’s rights.
Krull emphasizes the more difficult aspects of Ginsburg’s life, pointing out that her straight-A report cards were met with indifference by her father because she was a girl. Zhang’s pictures complement the text perfectly; here, she shows a small Ruth holding up her accomplishment to her father’s seated back as he reads a newspaper. Ginsburg’s mother is portrayed as supportive, though she accepts nothing less than perfection from her daughter. In one illustration, she is shown turning away with a downcast face as the child delivers an A-. The book also depicts the constant prejudice the “scary smart” Ruth confronts as a young woman in college and law school.
But even outright mockery won’t stop her on her road to a career in law. One especially stunning page shows Ginsburg in her cap and gown, eyes closed in a dream-like moment of joy, accompanied by the statement: “Ruth was becoming a warrior.” An equally moving image shows the newly appointed Supreme Court justice looking into the mirror. We see her back and face framed by her black robe and signature lace collar as she contemplates the journey she is about to begin.
No Truth Without Ruth also includes a timeline of Ginsburg’s life, a graphic explaining the federal court system, a list of some of her most significant Supreme Court cases, and a brief bibliography. These additional resources enhance the book for older readers. Adult RBG followers will also love this artistically sophisticated introduction to her life and work.
Highly recommended for readers ages 8 and older.
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.