Notorious RBG Young Readers' Edition: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsberg

Book review by
Lucinda Dyer, Common Sense Media
Notorious RBG Young Readers' Edition: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsberg Book Poster Image
Lively, inspiring bio of famed U.S. Supreme Court Justice.

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Educational Value

Bright red pages throughout the book invite readers to learn "Nine Things About the Supreme Court," "Some of the Things Women Couldn't Do in the 1930s and 1940s" (open a bank account without a husband's or male relatives permission), "How To Be Like RBG" (work for what you believe in, pick your battles, and don't burn your bridges), "How To Dress Like RBG Outside of Court" (wear a scrunchie and definitely no tattoos), and the "Dramatic Changes in Life Since the 1800s." A nine-page illustrated timeline focuses both on events in Ginsberg's own life and highlights of American women's struggle for equality. A short section at the back defines "Legal Terms in Plain English."

Positive Messages

If you see injustice in the world, use your talents and abilities to help change it. Women belong in every place where decisions are made. Being a great mentor is more important than becoming a superstar. A sense of humor is essential in life.

Positive Role Models

Ginsberg is a role model for her brilliiance, excellence, integrity, her embodiment of social justicce values, and respect for the principal of equal justice undee the law. One of Ginsberg's role models was Anna Pauline "Pauli" Murray, a Black civil rights attorney and one of the founders of the National Organization for Women. Murray argued that the 14th Amendment, which granted equal protection under the law, might be the key to freeing women from legal constraints. Ginsberg was also inspired by the activism of her own students when she taught at Rutgers Law School. In 1970, her female law students asked for and she agreed to teach the school's first-ever class on women and the law.

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What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik's Notorious RBG Young Readers' Edition: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsberg is a lively, photo-filled biography of the U.S. Supreme Court Justice. The story follows Ginsberg from her Brooklyn childhood through to a lifetime of breaking down barriers. At a time when few women becasme lawyers, she tied for first in her graduating class at Columbia University Law School and went oon to teach at Rutgers and Columbia universities. When fewwomen became judges, she became the second woman ever appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Much more than a fact-filled retelling of her life and accomplishments as a lawyer and judge, it's the story of a woman who loved her husband, children, and opera, and who found enormous joy in the life she lived. This biography was published in 2017, three years before Ginsberg's death in 2020.

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What's the story?

NOTORIOUS RBG YOUNG READERS' EDITION begins with a girl named Kiki, Ginsberg's nickname when she was growing up in Brooklyn. Although it was a time when expectations for girls centered around marriage and raising a family, her mother encouraged her to follow her own path. That path led to Cornell University, where she met her husband Marty ("a boy who cared she had a brain"). They both attended law school, balancing marriage and a young daughter. While Marty quickly found a job, Ginsberg, even after tying for first in her class at Columbia Law School, found nothing. In 1963, she accepted a teaching position at Rutgers University Law School, where she and her fellow female professors successfully sued the school for pay discrimination. In 1972, now with two children, she went to back to Columbia, where she filed class action suits on behalf of its female employees and helped found the ACLU's Women's Rights Project. She argued and won her first case before the Supreme Court in 1973, and four years later was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Along the way, her greatest supporter was always her husband, Marty. In 1993, Ginsberg became the second woman to serve as a Supreme Court Associate Justice and earned a reputation for continuing "to give voice to my dissent if, in my judgement, the court veers in the wrong direction where important matters are at stake."

Is it any good?

This biography is Inspiring not only because of the extraordinary contributions Ruth Bader Ginsberg made as a lawyer and Supreme Court Justice, but also for a personal life fully and joyfully lived. Readers who may only know Ginsberg as the black- robed older women on Notorious RBG T-shirts may be surprised to meet the pretty smiling young woman in many of the book's photographs. The use of photos (many of them candid family photos) to visually trace her life from childhood into her 80s adds a wonderfully intimate element to already captivating text.


Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the role of women evolved during the lifetime of Notorious RBG. Are there still changes that need to happen so women and girls can be treated equally?

  • One of Ginsberg's closest friends was the very conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Have you ever had a friend you disagreed with on just about everything? How did you make the friendship work?

  • Ginsberg was inspired as a young reader by the fictional girl detective Nancy Drew. What fictional characters have inspired you?

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