Krull, Kathleen illus. by Anna DiVito. A Kids’ Guide to America’s Bill of Rights: Curfews, Censorship, and the 100-Pound Giant. Harper Collins, 1999. ISBN 978-0380974979 240 pp. $
In this well researched, well-written book, Krull describes the history of the Bill of Rights and remarks on its significance, historically and for our future. She begins by giving props to James Madison, the “100 pound giant” responsible for creating the Bill of Rights and goes on to relay the explanation behind each amendment, and weaving in recent issues to show how relevant the 462 words of the Bill of Rights still are today.
Krull is a strong youth advocate. Many of the court cases she mentions revolve around kids: censorship of school newspapers, illegal locker searches, prayers at school functions, and banned books. Krull points out that the words are open to interpretation, and explains how some amendments were interpreted differently in the past to show the true staying power of the Constitution and Bill of Rights.
Krull devotes a separate chapter to the other 17 amendments, with a date and brief explanations for each. She includes a quick explanation of the ratification process, and speculates on what sorts of proposed amendments the future might bring. The final chapter acknowledges problems with the Bill of Rights.
Divito’s illustrations are whimsical, and the lettering for the amendments that head each chapter is elegant and dignified. Bullets, quotes, and drawings break up the text. See-also type entries on influential people, precedent setting court cases, and other appear in different fonts and separated from the narrative with bars. These sections are always related to the subject, and surprisingly don’t interrupt the flow of the writing.
Krull has a knack for finding little known gems of information and relating them with enthusiasm. Her writing style is very engaging. This is a great book to browse or read in one sitting, and the thorough index can be used to look up just one fact. U.S. history teachers will no doubt find it useful. The list of further reading is contemporary and extensive. Websites are mentioned throughout the book and not compiled in a single list. Every library should own this book that brings history alive and makes the daily impact of the Bill of Rights real.