A Booklist for Constitution Day

It's Constitution Day. We've pulled together some recent books on the subject for those who want to learn more about the U.S. document.

It is Constititution Day. For those who want to help students dig a little deeper on the American document throughout the school year, we've pulled together SLJ's reviews of five titles published this year. The books go from preschool to grade 10.


The Constitution Decoded: A Guide to the Document That Shapes Our Nation by Katie Kennedy. illus. by Ben Kirchner.  Workman. ISBN 9781523510443.

Gr 5-8–Kennedy’s examination of the U.S. Constitution translates the document into accessible, modern language for young readers. The book uses an easy-to-follow format. The original text of the Constitution appears on the left page with numbered notations (similar to footnotes) corresponding to the “decoded” explanation on the right page. Kennedy clarifies the sometimes wordy, dense text and outdated spellings. There are notes about changes made to the Constitution over the course of history, namely changes implemented by amendments ratified by the states. Kirchner’s cartoon-style illustrations depict important people who were involved in shaping the legal history of the country. “Did You Know?” fact boxes provide details about specific court cases, political events, and historical incidents. African American historical figures (including Harriet Tubman, Dred Scott, and Frederick Douglass) and Native American activists (Richard Oakes) discuss parts of the Constitution that have impacted marginalized Americans. The book concludes with the texts of the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation. Back matter offers a vocabulary section, further reading, and an index. However, the original text for Article X of the Covenant of the League of Nations is missing. VERDICT In the hands of a skilled social studies teacher, this informative book will help students unpack this foundational document that impacts all Americans. Recommended for school and public libraries.—Lisa Crandall, formerly at the Capital Area District Library, Holt, MI


Free for You and Me: What Our First Amendment Means by Christy Mihaly. illus. by Manu Montoya. Albert Whitman. ISBN 9780807524411.

PreS-Gr 3–Mihaly explores the concept of freedom by explaining the First Amendment and the five liberties that fall under its protection. The narrative begins by describing, in poetic language, how America declared its independence from Great Britain. Everyday examples demonstrate how these liberties are embedded in our society. The young characters debate whether a book is interesting or boring. They learn through the press that their mayor plans to close the neighborhood playground. The community rises up to save their playground by rallying and signing a petition. The colorful, cartoon-like illustrations have speech bubbles and clearly demonstrate what it means to have freedom of religion, speech, press, and peaceful assembly. Back matter includes more information about the United States Constitution and each of the five liberties. A glossary and a bibliography are included. VERDICT A nice addition to library collections that target second and third graders.—Annette Herbert, F.E. Smith Elementary School, Cortland, NY.


We the People: The United States Constitution Explored and Explained by Aura Lewis & Evan Sargent. illus. by Aura Lewis. Quarto/Wide Eyed Editions. ISBN 9780711254046.

Gr 5-8–This detailed overview of the U.S. Constitution incorporates engaging facts and profiles. Lewis and Sargent thoroughly explain various aspects of the government in a way that pops. Bright cartoon-style illustrations complement the organization of the book. The text features a mix of short passages, sidebars, discussion questions, lists, and profiles of important politicians and activists. The authors provide context that goes behind the basics. For example, in the section about the 19th Amendment, they point out that not all women were given the same freedom; the section describes the many ways women of color have tirelessly fought for equality, and offers an easy-to-understand definition of intersectionality. A glossary, an index, a search-and-find, and further reading are included. VERDICT An enlightening addition to upper elementary and middle school collections for its in-depth look at the Constitution and the U.S. government.—Molly Dettmann, Norman North H.S., OK


Whose Right Is It? The Second Amendment and the Fight Over Guns by Hana Bajramovic. Holt. ISBN 9781250224255.

Gr 6-10–Yale Law School graduate and former U.S. Court of Appeals judicial law clerk Bajramovic begins this guide to the Second Amendment with current data about gun violence and the many students who have lost their lives since the massacre at Columbine in 1999. The majority of the book describes the history of the U.S. from the American Revolution through the present day, and how the interpretation of the Second Amendment has changed in context of major events such as the Civil War and Reconstruction. Bajramovic describes how gun control laws have been used to preserve white supremacy, including the Gun Control Act of 1968. Some historians feel the passage of this act was a response to the Black Panthers openly carrying guns to protect themselves from the police. Insets explain legal terms and political parties. The text details the difference between local, state, and federal rulings, but it does not always succeed because the rulings can be genuinely confusing. The book’s title refers to whether the Second Amendment is meant to protect the rights of individuals to bear arms or the militia’s right to fight an unjust government. With the gains made by the NRA, including influencing key politicians whose campaigns they financially support, the recent Supreme Court’s rulings currently protect individuals’ right to bear arms. Back matter includes a bibliography and four websites. VERDICT This book will be of most use to student activists in favor of gun control.—Patricia Aakre, P.S. 89, New York.


Your Voice Is Your Superpower: A Beginner’s Guide to Freedom of Speech (and the First ­Amendment) by Jessica Bohrer & Sandy BohrerCity Point. ISBN 9781947951280.

K-Gr 3–In this brief guide to the First Amendment for beginning readers, self-expression is presented as a superpower. Rhyming couplets explain how children can freely express themselves—or stay silent if that’s what they choose. The authors are lawyers with extensive First Amendment experience. The text includes the important (and sometimes forgotten) caveat: “Like all important things, free speech can be tricky. Freedom belongs to all—even when what we hear sounds icky.” Readers are advised that it might be hard to listen to things they disagree with. The Bohrers stress, “Raise your voice, open your ears, be part of the future we shape.” Photographs depict children and teens of different ethnicities and races; some are BIPOC. Digital art features cape-wearing cartoon characters. Sometimes there are metrical hiccups. Educators, parents, and caretakers who choose this title for a read-aloud may want to practice first, but the conversations this title might inspire will be worth it. The concept of freedom of speech can be abstract, but the examples will be familiar: raising a hand in a classroom, taking a knee, praying or singing, and marching with signs. Back matter includes the text of the First Amendment, an explanation of the Bill of Rights, and numerous web resources. VERDICT The Bohrers showcase a powerful idea. There aren’t many books that discuss the First Amendment for young readers, so this title is a recommended addition to school and public libraries.—Kathleen Isaacs, Children's Literature Specialist, Pasadena, MD

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