understanding the constitution

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

The Constitution. Not an easy document to understand. The paragraph above that we think of when we think about the great document is just the preamble, and amble it did. What follows are 7 sections of complicated text about the 3 branches of government, the relationship between the states, and other complicated information. That’s all BEFORE we get to the amendments that we know more about. There are many books for students about the constitution, but Katie Kennedy has really done a remarkable job with the new book The Constitution Decoded: A Guide to the Document That Shapes Our Nation. (* I received a digital ARC from NetGalley. All opinions are my own)

This is one of those books that should be in all school libraries and any classroom that discusses The Constitution. I could have used this book when I was younger. I still got great information out of this as an adult. The following is the official description from the publisher:

Be an active citizen. Know your Constitution!

Ever wonder why the president has a Cabinet? Why there’s such thing as trial by jury? Why someday you’ll have to pay income tax, or why there are no Dukes, Duchesses, Counts, or Countesses in the United States? Because the Constitution says so––and so much more. And now, in The Constitution Decoded, the ideas, concepts, and rules that make America are unpacked and explained in detail to help all of us, kids and parents too, become more informed citizens.

Written with impeccable clarity and illustrated in a style that brings America’s early days to life, this fascinating guide goes through the Constitution literally word by word, sentence by sentence, and idea by idea to give readers a true understanding of not only how the Framers envisioned the United States, but also why they made the choices they did. Here’s why, for example, the United States has three branches of government—legislative, executive, and judicial. It explains how bills become laws, why we have the right to free speech, how we can change the Constitution as our country evolves, and so much more.

Packed with historical context and figures, vocabulary, anecdotes, and trivia, this book is an accessible yet richly layered work that belongs in every family library.

So, the cool thing about this book is how it breaks everything down into manageable pieces. Each spread has the original text they are discussing. Words that are bolded have definitions at the bottom of the page and there are numbers next to phrases that are further explained. There are also sections like “did you know?” which try to explain why the piece was included at all. The entire book is full of graphic illustrations by Ben Kirchner that really bring the whole thing to life.

I love nonfiction books for kids, but this one was truly different. A great addition to any library or classroom! (Ages 8-14)

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