What would RBG, Sonia Sotomayor, and Laurie Halse Anderson do?

The following books focus on women Supreme Court justices and — to borrow the name of a new series, below — some pitfalls of "Being Female in America." Reviews are from the Horn Book Guide Online from the time of the books' publications.

Picture Books

Hannigan, Kate A Lady Has the Floor: Belva Lockwood Speaks Out for Women's Rights
32 pp. Boyds/Calkins 2017. ISBN 978-1-62979-453-2
Illustrated by Alison Jay. Hannigan's lively picture-book biography of Belva Lockwood (1830–1917) focuses on Lockwood's lifelong fight against injustice, especially toward women. She became the first woman to argue before the Supreme Court and run for president, even before women had the right to vote. Hannigan's liberal quoting of her subject brings Lockwood's story to life, as do Jay's period-reminiscent crackled oil-paint illustrations. Timeline. Bib.

Kramer, Barbara Sonia Sotomayor
48 pp. National 2016. LE ISBN 978-1-4263-2290-7 PE ISBN 978-1-4263-2289-1
National Geographic Readers series. This level-three biography for "fluent readers" uses relatively simple sentence structure and unadorned writing style to introduce readers to Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor. With various sidebars, text boxes, and visuals, the presentation is visually cluttered, but the material is solid. A quiz is appended. Glos., ind.

Krull, Kathleen No Truth Without Ruth: The Life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg
48 pp. HarperCollins/Harper 2017. ISBN 978-0-06-256011-7
Illustrated by Nancy Zhang. Krull depicts Ginsburg as a smart, strong, independent woman, whose mother's influence has always stayed with her. Ginsburg's accomplishments and famous dissents are highlighted; large, bold statements drive home Krull's themes. The illustrations' mix of traditional and digital techniques at times lend the characters an unfortunate plastic, out-of-place quality. Explanatory pieces on the Supreme Court and Ginsburg's most famous rulings are appended. Timeline. Bib.

Levy, Debbie I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark
40 pp. Simon 2016. ISBN 978-1-4814-6559-5 Ebook ISBN 978-1-4814-6560-1
Illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley. Levy keeps a strong thematic focus on principled disagreement in this admiring picture-book biography of Justice Ginsburg. From her grade-school insistence on writing left-handed to her dissents on a right-leaning Supreme Court, Ginsburg displays here a lifelong tenacity. Mixed-media illustrations aptly change with the times of Ginsburg's life and give their subject lots of personality — but how could they not?

McElroy, Lisa Sandra Day O'Connor: Supreme Court Justice
48 pp. Lerner/Millbrook 2003. LE ISBN 0-7613-2502-6
Gateway Biography series. This biography of the first woman Supreme Court Justice follows a straightforward chronology and recitation of accomplishments, avoiding talk of political affiliations or controversial decisions; at times the book reads like a chatty gossip column ("She plays a mean game of bridge!"). Black-and-white and color photos illustrate this pleasant-enough, quickly digested volume. Reading list, timeline. Glos., ind.

Winter, Jonah Sonia Sotomayor: A Judge Grows in the Bronx / La juez que creció en el Bronx
40 pp. Atheneum 2009. ISBN 978-1-4424-0303-1
Illustrated by Edel Rodriguez. Sotomayor's inspiring life is described in this picture book biography. The story begins in a South Bronx housing project and sees her through Princeton, early judgeships, and finally the U.S. Supreme Court. Though the writing (in English and Spanish) is overblown ("her blossoming began with her mother's love and hard work"), Winter makes his subject accessible. Rodriguez's mixed-media illustrations are warmly expressive.


Bernier-Grand, Carmen T. Sonia Sotomayor: Supreme Court Justice
48 pp. Cavendish 2010. ISBN 978-0-7614-5795-4
Illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez. This illustrated biography in verse details the life of Ms. Sotomayor from her childhood in New York City to her rise to Supreme Court Justice. The text, punctuated by the occasional Spanish word, can be ponderous or choppy, though it does do a good job of scene-setting. Mixed-media illustrations breathe life into the story. Concurrently published in Spanish as Sonia Sotomayor: Jueza de la Corte Suprema. Timeline. Bib., glos.

Carmon, Irin and Knizhnik, Shana Notorious RBG Young Readers' Edition: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg
199 pp. HarperCollins/Harper 2017. ISBN 978-0-06-274853-9
With Kathleen Krull. This adaptation of the same-titled adult book is a clear, lively, well-documented look at the Supreme Court justice's life, work, and portrayal in popular culture. Beginning with her vigorous 2013 dissent of the Voting Rights Act reversal, the biography, which contains a plethora of photographs, continues with her childhood, family, education, and the numerous legal milestones that account for her stellar career. Timeline. Bib., glos., ind.

Cooper, Ilene A Woman in the House (and Senate): How Women Came to the United States Congress, Broke Down Barriers, and Changed the Country
144 pp. Abrams 2014. ISBN 978-1-4197-1036-0
Illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley. This is a thorough, engaging, and well-designed account of women in American politics (through 2013). Each chapter covers about a decade of U.S. history, giving a snapshot of the status of women during each era. Enhanced with photos and cartoon illustrations, the lively narrative begins with a profile of Jeannette Rankin, the first congresswoman in 1917, and continues through the 2013 delegation. Reading list, websites. Bib., ind.

Krull, Kathleen Sonia Sotomayor
48 pp. Bloomsbury 2015. ISBN 978-0-8027-3797-7 PE ISBN 978-0-8027-3798-4
Illustrated by Angela Dominguez. Women Who Broke the Rules series. Using the theme of rule-breaking, Krull crafts an informative and readable biography. While Krull strives to tell the whole story, certain elements occasionally feel out of place or casually thrown in. But the illustrations are well matched to their subject, and for young readers looking for facts about fascinating women, this series fits the bill. Reading list, websites. Bib., ind.

Mendoza, Sylvia Sonia Sotomayor: A Biography
112 pp. Zest 2017. ISBN 978-1-942186-09-0
Living History series. A readable biography of the first Latinx person and third woman to be appointed a Supreme Court Justice. Beginning with her childhood poverty and early diagnosis of diabetes, the book shows how Justice Sotomayor's early experiences have shaped her adult life. Well researched, with detailed chapter notes and quotations from the Supreme Court Justice's autobiography.

Young Adult

Anderson, Laurie Halse Speak
198 pp. Farrar 1999. ISBN 0-374-37152-0
Speaking out at the "wrong" time — calling 911 from a teen drinking party — has made Melinda a social outcast; now she barely speaks at all. While her smart and savvy interior narrative slowly reveals the searing pain of that night (she was raped), it also nails the high-school experience cold. Uncannily funny even as it plumbs the darkness, Speak will hold readers from first word to last.

Anderson, Laurie Halse Speak: The Graphic Novel
384 pp. Farrar 2018. ISBN 978-0-374-30028-9
Illustrated by Emily Carroll. A new graphic-novel adaptation of Anderson's Speak — a powerful narrative of a high school freshman's year of self-preservation after a brutal sexual assault. Artist Carroll starkly renders protagonist Melinda's pain and healing in black and white, expertly deploying visual perspective and tension to sharpen the emotional impact. A tumultuous first-person narration juxtaposed with the third-person visual perspective offers a new way to experience Melinda's story.

Harris, Duchess, with Nancy Redd Growing Up a Girl
112 pp. ABDO/Essential 2017. LE ISBN 978-1-5321-1306-2. Ebook ISBN 978-1-5321-5092-0
Harris, Duchess, with Heidi Deal Male Privilege
112 pp. ABDO/Essential 2017. LE ISBN 978-1-5321-1307-9. Ebook ISBN 978-1-5321-5093-7
Harris, Duchess, with Nadine Pinede Sexism and Race
112 pp. ABDO/Essential 2017. LE ISBN 978-1-5321-1308-6. Ebook ISBN 978-1-5321-5094-4
Harris, Duchess, with Gail Radley Sexism at Work
112 pp. ABDO/Essential 2017. LE ISBN 978-1-5321-1309-3. Ebook ISBN 978-1-5321-5095-1
Harris, Duchess, with Christine Zuchora-Walske Sexism in Politics
112 pp. ABDO/Essential 2017. LE ISBN 978-1-5321-1310-9. Ebook ISBN 978-1-5321-5096-8
Harris, Duchess Sexism in the Media
112 pp. ABDO/Essential 2017. LE ISBN 978-1-5321-1311-6. Ebook ISBN 978-1-5321-5097-5
Being Female in America series. In readable prose, Harris unpacks the biases, double standards, and unrealistic expectations placed on American women in a variety of settings. Harris manages to provide a fresh and unique approach with each title, and throughout the series she encourages readers to consider the issues from a wide angle. Discussion starters and related-topic sidebars are sprinkled throughout each text. Reading list. Bib., glos., ind.

Prout, Chessy I Have the Right To: A High School Survivor's Story of Sexual Assault, Justice, and Hope
405 pp. McElderry 2017. ISBN 978-1-5344-1443-3 Ebook ISBN 978-1-5344-1445-7
With Jenn Abelson. The teen author details her life before and after she was raped by a classmate. Prout provides a captivating but troubling insider's view of the dangerous student culture of an elite boarding school and a sympathetic portrayal of the wide-ranging consequences of reporting assault. Although her emotional memoir is perhaps over-long, Prout's transformation from survivor to activist is powerful and moving.
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