Justice Is…A Guide for Young Truth Seekers by Preet Bharara,  illustrated by Sue Cornelison

Justice Is…A Guide for Young Truth Seekers by Preet Bharara,  illustrated by Sue Cornelison. Crown Books, 2021. 9780593176665

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 3

Format: Hardcover picture book

What did you like about the book?  Preet Bharara, the former United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, stood up for himself and the law when Donald Trump pushed for the mass resignation of the U.S. attorneys in 2017. For this, we are all thankful! Now he has written this nonfiction children’s book, saluting justice warriors across time and around the world. Simple, declarative phrases describe the act of bravery and are accompanied by a digital drawing done in full colored, faux charcoal strokes. “Justice can be slow” shows a portrait of young Nelson Mandela languishing in prison on the left, while an older Mandela raises his fist in triumph on the right. A label box gives his name and identifies him as an anti-apartheid activist and South African president. Others singled out for their deeds include Ida B. Wells, Sojourner Truth, Malala, Japanese American internees, and Harvey Milk. Justice can’t do it alone though, Bharara writes. Sometimes “it needs an army at its back” reads the text over the Black Lives Matter street art on 16th Street NW. Back matter includes a list of all the famous justice seekers, with one or two sentences expanding on their contributions. Quotations from John Lewis, Gandhi, and Frederick Douglass (among others) float over clouds and sky on the endpapers.

Anything you didn’t like about it? Although the book seemed heartfelt, I didn’t think it would hold much appeal as a read aloud. The text is vague and the images might be confusing for young readers unfamiliar with the showcased historic figures. One particularly cryptic double page spread shows tenement slums, slavery, the Holocaust, and the Trail of Tears, each in their own quadrant, but with no dates or places. There are so many wonderful picture book biographies about most of these characters that can provide context and are more engaging as stories. 

To whom would you recommend this book?  If a teacher in 3rd or 4th grade wanted a book to read on MLK Day or to kick off a human rights unit, this could be an option. 

Who should buy this book? Elementary school or public libraries

Where would you shelve it? Nonfiction 320.01

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA

Date of review: June 19, 2022

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