February 22, 2018

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Fault Lines in the Constitution by Cynthia Levinson and Sanford Levinson | SLJ Review

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redstarLEVINSON, Cynthia & Sanford Levinson. Fault Lines in the Constitution: The Framers, Their Fights, and the Flaws That Affect Us Today. illus. by Adela Pons. 192p. Peachtree. Sept. 2017. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781561459452.

Gr 6-8 –Gerrymandering. Filibusters. The electoral college. The authors tackle these and other constitutional issues in this insightful work. The book functions differently than a straightforward explanatory text on the U.S. Constitution. Rather, the authors examine the fissures and issues that arise when it comes to the actual application of the Constitution: Why does a small state have the same power in the Senate as a state with exponentially higher population? How can certain stipulations in the Constitution deter otherwise popular legislation? The text discusses current conflicts, such as the irony of “Taxation Without Representation” in regard to Washington, DC, and Senate filibusters that kill potentially popular legislation before it can even be voted on. Historical situations are also examined, such as the Sedition Act of 1918 that barred anti-war speech during World War One. The book provides readers with a broad context of constitutional law; the text explores how various parts of the U.S. Constitution compare with individual state constitutions and other nations’ constitutions. The authors not only raise timely issues, but provide readers with options of how a seemingly obsolete stipulation can be amended. Many examples of amended laws, e.g., the repeal of Prohibition, illustrate the evolving nature of the law. At times, the authors seem to express their support of a more direct democracy. They also provide a “report card” on the Constitution’s ability to handle its objectives, such as “Form a More Perfect Union” and “Promote the General Welfare.” Pons’s helpful illustrations resemble infographics, pulling out startling facts from the text and repackaging them visually. VERDICT Much food for thought on the application and relevance of many of the Constitution’s stipulations. Essential for class discussions, debate teams, and reports.–Jeffrey Meyer, Mount Pleasant Public Library, IA

This review was published in the School Library Journal August 2017 issue.

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