Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s titanic achievements in the law and her lifelong fight for women to be treated as full citizens have profoundly shaped American culture. After her death on September 16, 2020, she was the first woman to lie in state in the U.S. Capitol. In her eulogy, the rabbi described Justice Ginsburg as one of the few people who could be called “that rare prophet who not only imagines a new world, but also makes that new world a reality in her lifetime.”
To give children a sense of Ginsburg’s amazing accomplishments and the tenacity that earned her the affectionate nickname “the Notorious R.B.G.,” we recommend the lively picture book I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy, written with guidance from RBG herself.
I Dissent is a story for all children who want to “do big things in the world,” with the affirming message that sometimes it’s important to use your voice and speak up. “Disagreeing does not make a person disagreeable. In fact, it can change the world!” Inspired by her talented mother and the heroines she read about in books, Ruth Bader started speaking up as a young child, resisting when her school wanted her to write only with her right hand (she was left-handed). She was troubled by the low expectations people in the 1940’s held for girls, as well as the era’s anti-Semitism and racial segregation. Learning that “lawyers could fight unfairness in courts,” Ruth Bader entered law school as one of only nine women in a class of 500 men and graduated first in her class, only to find no firm would hire her. Yet “she resisted and persisted,” became a law professor and argued groundbreaking civil rights cases before the Supreme Court. “With each victory, women and men, girls and boys, enjoyed a little more equality.” At age 60, she was appointed to the Supreme Court, where she became known for writing powerful, eloquent dissents whenever she felt the other Justices on the Supreme Court had not done enough to protect Americans’ civil rights. “She made change happen, and she changed minds.”
Elisabeth Baddeley’s colorful, cartoon-like illustrations capture Ginsburg’s quiet charisma, with bold typography for words like protest, dissent, disagree and determined. There are plenty of fun moments in this fast-paced story, such as RBG’s use of elaborate lace collars over her robes to send coded messages, and her parasailing adventures with Justice Antonin Scalia, who was a “best buddy” despite their passionate disagreements over the law. This picture book will be an inspiration for any child who wants to make her own mark on the world—or to change it entirely.