The Constitution Decoded: A Guide to the Document That Shapes Our Nation

Workman. Sept. 2020. 208p. pap. $16.95. 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 Kennedy clarifies the sometimes wordy, dense text and outdated spellings.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.

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