Friday, August 18, 2017

Author Interview: Cynthia & Sandy Levinson

In a conversation about their forthcoming book, authors Cynthia and Sanford Levinson describe their process for creating Fault Lines in the Constitution and explain why it's a much-needed addition to the canon of books about the Constitution for young readers.

Q: When you began working on Fault Lines in the Constitution, did you have any idea how timely and relevant it would be?

Cynthia: When we started working on the book in June 2012, we actually did know that it would be timely and relevant. We just didn’t anticipate in what ways it would be timely or how interested the public would become in the Constitution.

Sandy: I’ve long believed that our founding document is at the root of many problems in American politics but that people aren’t aware of it. My first book on this issue, Constitutional Stupidities, came out in 1998—nearly 20 years ago. Since then, I’ve written three more books on how the Constitution promotes injustice, gridlock, and undemocratic decision-making.

Donald Trump’s Electoral College win and his inauguration as president—despite his loss to Hillary Clinton by nearly three million votes in the popular election—woke up the public to this aspect of the Constitution. People seem even more incensed now than in 2000, when George W. Bush became president after losing the national popular vote to Al Gore. Since Trump took office, people have started paying attention to such obscure sections of the Constitution as the Emoluments Clause and the Twenty-fifth Amendment.

Q: President Donald Trump has said the Constitution is “archaic.” Do you agree?

Sandy: Yes, we agree with the president’s statement that the Constitution is archaic. As we write in the book, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg made the same point during a visit to Cairo in 2012. Their reasons for saying so, though, are probably different from each other’s. The document has proved to be at least somewhat dysfunctional since 1787 and simply does not serve us—a 50-state nation spanning over 5,000 miles and encompassing 325 million people—very well while facing 21st-century threats.
Q: There are many books out there about the Constitution. Why is Fault Lines in the Constitution so important? And why now?

Sandy
: Fault Lines in the Constitution is different from other books for young readers in two major ways. First, the book focuses on the structure of our government, rather than on the rights that we have as citizens, as many other books do. Second, it focuses on how the Constitution does not work, rather than on what a great job the Framers did in creating our form of government. So, we don’t proceed through the document in order, explaining each section.

Cynthia: To give examples, with the exception of issues surrounding habeas corpus, we don’t discuss the Bill of Rights much at all. Instead, we highlight the inequities caused by the fact that every state, no matter the size of its population, has two votes in the Senate. Furthermore, we bore in on such problems as states having control over voting procedures and restrictions on running for Congress. At the same time, we unabashedly leapfrog over entire articles!

Q: Why is it important for young people, specifically, to know our Constitution and to look at it critically?

Cynthia: Young people feel fervently about unfairness. They want to live in—and take action to create—a society that is just and equitable. Some aspects of our Constitution promote those qualities; other, fundamental ones undermine them. Helping middle graders and high schoolers understand the underside of our system can encourage them to change it. In the book, we discuss ways they can do so.

Sandy: In addition, they will vote. Fully informed and concerned citizens are essential to establish and maintain a democracy.

Q: What do you think about the state of civics education and constitutional literacy in our youth? And what role can Fault Lines in the Constitution play?

Cynthia: Alas, there is widespread agreement that civics education has been vanishing from our schools over the last several decades. This is especially unfortunate given the increasing numbers of immigrants, who are unfamiliar with our system of government and the role they can play. Even kids and too many adults who have grown up here are unfamiliar with the fundamentals of our democratic system.

Fault Lines can engage young people in civics class because it’s honest. And, it doesn’t all take place in the 18th century! Unlike most books, which laud the Constitution and the Framers, ours is candid about specific ways that the Framers’ compromises affect all of us, including kids, today. We also describe other—frankly, better—ways of doing things, such as registering voters and electing presidents. Our democracy may be the oldest but we’ve hardly worked out all the kinks. Students will find it enlightening to look at other models.

We hope teachers will take advantage of Fault Lines to re-introduce civics into daily debates and discussions. And, surely, everyone will want to give the Constitution a grade, the way we do!

Q: Does Fault Lines in the Constitution present a particular political perspective?

Sandy: We believe the book is fair and even-handed. We are particularly pleased that people with a range of political views support Fault Lines. Journalist Dan Rather and Ted McConnell, who is executive director of the Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools, as well as Wallace Jefferson, a Republican former chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court, all endorsed the book.

Rather says it will be “controversial.” McConnell calls it “entertaining” and “thought provoking.” Jefferson finds it “compelling.” There is something for everyone.

Q: Has co-authoring the book been a challenging process?

Cynthia: Certainly! As we drafted the book, I posted periodically on social media about the process of our co-authoring it. There were even times when it was exasperating! Overall, though, we found it informative and rewarding.

Sandy: I had to agree to eliminate extraneous words I’m fond of, like “indeed.” Cynthia had to figure out how to translate my academic-ese to a kid-friendly narrative. There are still some topics we disagree on—ranging from how to pronounce “gerrymander” to our debate on the necessity (me) or foolhardiness (Cynthia) of another constitutional convention.

Cynthia: But the most challenging part has been keeping the book updated.

Q: Yes! You’ve had to go back and revise certain chapters in the book relating to topics such as gerrymandering, filibusters, the electoral college, and even the passage of an ERA amendment in Nevada. What did you do to address these changes quickly and accurately?


Sandy: Chapter 4, which focuses on requirements for supermajority votes in Congress, particularly for overcoming a filibuster, has been, from the beginning, one of the most uncertain and evolving chapters. Initially, we debated at length whether a chapter on Senate rules belongs in the book altogether. After all, although the Constitution does stipulate that agreement by more than half of Congress is needed for some decisions, such as treaties and overriding presidential vetoes, it doesn’t require senators to filibuster. It merely allows both houses to adopt their own operating procedures. Nevertheless, the filibuster—or the threat of one—is a very prominent way that the Senate operates—or fails to—these days.

Cynthia: Also, Sandy predicted early on that this house might change its rules after the 2016 presidential election. He was right! But we had to send the Advanced Readers Copy to print before they took this action. Three days later, when they did, we re-wrote the chapter and sent the new one to reviewers.

And that was just the beginning of the updates. Given decisions by federal courts on gerrymandering, recent state-level changes in voting requirements, and increased public interest in the Constitution, we’ve made other revisions in both the text and graphics. Our editor has been extremely patient and supportive!

Q: How do you plan to address future changes? 

Sandy
: Fault Lines in the Constitution is an inherently news-responsive book. We joked that it should be published in three-ring binders, and we’d send loose-leaf updates. I then proposed a subscription website, which was also a joke. 

Cynthia: Thankfully, we have a blog on which we’ll post updates both regularly and on an as-needed basis. We look forward to getting readers’ responses, including suggestions from students that might entail revisions prompted by the news.

Q: Lastly, what do you hope readers get out of this book? 

Cynthia
: My previous books all dealt with social justice in various ways—through civil rights in We’ve Got a Job and The Youngest Marcher, through racial, national, economic, and religious diversity in Watch Out for Flying Kids, and through doing good in Hillary Rodham Clinton. Fault Lines in the Constitution also follows this pattern. I hope it helps further very important discussions taking place today among young people.

Sandy: We state at the outset that the Preamble sets worthy goals for the Constitution. One of these is to “establish justice.” In the end, we grade the document on how well it meets the goals, and we give it a low score on this one. We hope the book will encourage young people to revise or work around the Constitution so that our system is more just.

Find more information about the book hereFault Lines in the Constitution will be at your local library, indie bookstore, or Barnes & Noble on September 1st!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

New Book News: Fault Lines in the Constitution


Many of the political issues we struggle with today have their roots in the US Constitution, and when you connect a long-established, little-changed document like the Constitution to the repercussions it’s caused, the document can remain static while the repercussions continue to reverberate. Enter: Fault Lines in the Constitution: The Framers, Their Fights, and the Flaws that Affect Us Today.

Focusing on the political fallout in our times from the decisions made in 1787, husband-and-wife team Cynthia and Sanford Levinson take readers back to the creation of this historic document and discuss how contemporary problems were first introduced—then they offer possible solutions. Think Electoral College, gerrymandering, even the Senate.

Many of us take these features in our system for granted. But they came about through haggling in an overheated room in 1787, and we’re still experiencing the ramifications.

While most books for young readers about the Constitution focus on our rights as citizens and praise the Framers for creating our form of government, Fault Lines in the Constitution looks at the document with a critical eye, focusing on the structure of our government and how the Constitution does not always work. Even with a diminishing presence of civic literacy and government history in education, Cynthia and Sanford Levinson encourage exploration and discussion from young and old readers alike by making a 230-year-old document relevant to today’s society.

Join co-authors Cynthia and Sanford Levinson in a conversation surrounding the continual and consistent repercussions we are experiencing from the Constitution today at faultlinesintheconstitution.com!

“Insightful… Much food for thought on the application and relevance of many of the Constitution’s stipulations. Essential for class discussions, debate teams, and reports.” —School Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“A fascinating, thoughtful, and provocative look at what in the Constitution keeps the United States from being ‘a more perfect union.’” —Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“Lately there’s been dismay that civics, government, and history have taken a backseat in classrooms. This smartly conceived book goes a long way toward reintroducing students to those subjects….the Levinsons link both history and current events as they offer an illustrative group of examples that show where the Constitution got it right—and wrong…. Although the font, charts, and well-written text make this appealing, it’s not always an easy read. It is, however, an important one.”
Booklist, STARRED REVIEW


You can find Fault Lines in the Constitution at your local library, indie bookstore, or Barnes& Noble this September.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Guest Post: How to #BeDangerous by Diane Capriola

Jane Addams was an advocate for peace and was persistent in her efforts to help her community and support those in need. As part of our #BeDangerous campaign, we are encouraging everyone to be like Jane and tell us what they are doing to get involved and become agents of change. Decatur bookstore Little Shop of Stories is doing great things here in the Atlanta area, and co-owner Diane Capriola graciously provided us with details about what they as a bookstore are doing to engage the community and how they are encouraging others to "be dangerous."

At Little Shop of Stories, we like to say that children's books will save the world. Not only do we see ourselves in the books we read but we are also able to see beyond our own experiences and to understand what it is like for someone else. Books are great and vitally important conversation starters about different lives, different problems, and different solutions.

Using these ideas, we have created new programming in 2017 to engage our community in conversations through children's literature.

The Kindness Project came out of discussions we had here at the shop during and after the November election season. There was so much negativity, intolerance, and divisiveness during that time that we really were concerned about the impact of it all on the children we serve. We decided we wanted to encourage a discussion on kindness, compassion, and empathy within our community of readers as a way to help families consider ways to think and act differently despite this negativity. Each month we focus on a different topic and provide book lists, workshops, and other activities that will help parents and teachers navigate conversations around these topics with children and teens.

Some examples of Kindness Project activities have included:

  • Our January story time about the Refugee Experience brought over 40 families to the shop. We worked with publishers to deliver hundreds of books to our very active refugee community. 
  • We conduct regular, robust story times highlighting picture books filled with diverse peoples and cultures. 
  • Our Gender Fluidity Workshop helped to create new support systems for parents and their children and teens. 
  • We held an April Poetry Workshop for kids to understand themselves and others through poetry. 
  • We've raised $130 in donations for shipping books to military families all over the US. That's like 16 or 17 boxes of books!
This summer's Camp Be The Change endeavored to take the Kindness Project one step furtherto encourage children to move from idea to action and to celebrate the amazing ways that they too can make a difference in the world around them. Campers learned about influential figures in history who have fought to make the world a better place, from Susan B. Anthony to Representative John Lewis. They also learned about kids like them who have chosen to take a stand to change their communities. Topics ranged from random acts of kindness to civil liberties, and campers explored ways to improve and support their own communities.



We're a bookstore, and we believe in the power of stories, and sharing those stories. We're not looking to do what non-profits do, or what other, better equipped or already established forms of outreach are doing. Instead, we are looking to initiate thoughtful action in ourselves and others through sharing one another's stories.

To learn more about Little Shop of Stories and their 2017 programming, visit their website.
Have a great example of how you make a difference in your community? Let us know on Facebook and Twitter to enter our #BeDangerous sweepstakes!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Dangerous Jane Sweepstakes

"Nothing could be worse than the fear that one had given up too soon, and had left one effort unexpended which might have saved the world." Jane Addams 


Jane Addams and all of us at Peachtree invite you to #BeDangerous and enter our Dangerous Jane Sweepstakes*! Jane’s passion for promoting peace and helping those in need, and her persistence and determination despite criticism, resonates in our communities now more than ever, and we want to hear the stories of all those who are carrying on Jane's activism work in their own communities. Learn more about Jane Addams here.

How to enter:

1. Make sure that you've followed us on Twitter, or liked our page on Facebook.

2. Reply and re-tweet our tweets, or reply with a comment on Facebook to the questions we will be posting daily from August 14th to August 25th (including weekends). We’ll be asking different questions each day about civic engagement, literacy, and social justice.

3. Every reply & re-tweet or comment counts as an entry. Feel free to respond to any and all questions we ask, but you don’t have to respond to all of them to win. The more questions you tweet or comment about, the more entries you have in our sweepstakes!

What you’ll win:

A brand new copy of Dangerous Jane and several #BeDangerous buttons!


Ask yourself: How will you change the world today? 
Let us know on Twitter and Facebook starting August 14th!

Read about how bookstore Little Shop of Stories is engaging the community in a guest post written by co-owner Diane Capriola here!

*No purchase necessary to enter or win. Open only to legal residents of the 50 United States and Washington, D.C. who are 18 years of age or older as of date of entry. Sweepstakes will begin August 14th, 2017 and end August 25th, 2017 at 11:59pm EST. One winner will be selected randomly to receive the prize. Winners will be notified by August 30th, 2017. Void where prohibited.

Monday, August 7, 2017

New Book News: Dangerous Jane


Dangerous Jane, written by Suzanne Slade and illustrated by Alice Ratterree, is the energetic picture book biography of the Nobel Prize-winning woman the FBI once named “Most Dangerous Woman in America.” With a timely focus on activism, community, immigration, poverty, and peace, Dangerous Jane inspires readers young and old to live out her enduring message of hope.

From the time she was a child, Jane’s heart ached for others. At first, she focused her efforts on poverty, which lead to the creation of Hull House, the settlement house she built in Chicago. For the next 25 years she helped immigrants live at Hull House in peace. But when World War I broke out, Jane decided to take on the world, becoming a “dangerous” woman for the sake of peace.

“An attractive volume introducing an important American to young readers.” Kirkus Reviews

“In Slade’s and Ratterree’s hands, Addams’s legacy shines brightly for the next generation of advocates.” School Library Journal

“A straightforward introduction to the dedication and purpose of an American heroine.” Booklist

“An inspiring testament to the power of activism.” Publishers Weekly

Resources

Jane Addams is an American icon and hero who has many accomplishments attached to her name, but not everyone saw her that way during her efforts to bring peace to the world. To learn more about Jane Addams, her life, and her legacy, check out these great resources!

Read an Excerpt, explore the Dangerous Jane Teacher's Guide, and download the poster.

Jane Addams among advocates for peace during World War I.
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
See the original FBI files on Jane Addams when a treason investigation opened in 1924 involving the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, an organization that Addams helped found, here.

"Illinois Issues: Local icon shifts from lauded reformer to 'the most dangerous woman in America'" by Tara McClellan McAndrew, NPR Illinois

Jane Addams, Rockford University

The Jane Addams Papers Project, Ramapo College of New Jersey


Ask yourself: How will you change the world today?

You can pick up your copy of Dangerous Jane at your local library, indie bookstore, or Barnes & Noble.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Coming this Fall: New in Paperback

This season, we have a great list of humorous and touching stories coming out in paperback for readers of all ages! Whether you're looking for a fun picture book to share at storytime, an adventure-filled chapter book, or an eye-opening and inspiring YA novel, check out these award-winning books, now in a new format!

Picture Books

illustrated by John Sill

In this bilingual addition to the acclaimed About… series, educator and author Cathryn Sill presents the basic characteristics of what fish are. With beautifully detailed, realistic paintings, noted wildlife illustrator John Sill introduces readers to the diversity of the fish population, from an Arctic char to a Porcupine fish.


illustrated by Ali TeoJohn O'Reilly

Kyle Mewburn’s story of an overly affectionate aunt will resonate with readers, who will instantly recognize the bond of love that unites the two characters. Ali Teo and John O’Reilly’s colorful and quirky illustrations, which combine freehand drawing and photographic collage, exaggerate the humor of the story.




Another hilariously quirky tale from Alex Latimer, filled with visual puns, wordplay, and an entertaining and unique message about working together to defeat a bully.

Read an Excerpt.

"Readers will laugh at the surprise revelation that a colony of wily rabbits was in on the success. This quirky twist on ‘The Tortoise and the Hare’ is a winner.” ―School Library Journal
Middle Grade Books

Alison Hart offers young readers a dramatic story of rescue and survival featuring a plucky, determined protagonist. An author’s note provides more information about prairie life in the late nineteenth century and about the great storm that hit Nebraska in 1888, now known as “The School Children’s Blizzard.”
Read an Excerpt.

“Anna is a strong, appealing heroine, and the story is suspenseful.” ―School Library Journal


illustrated by Adam Gustavson

In the fifth book of the Charlie Bumpers series, Charlie is finally on the same soccer team as his two best friends, and they’re sure the Pirates will be the best team ever! But their high hopes are crushed on the first day of practice. Not only do they have a bunch of shrimpy and inexperienced teammates, their new coach doesn’t believe in star players. The first few games are a big disappointment to Charlie. So, if they can’t be on a winning team, Charlie thinks, maybe he, Tommy, and Hector can at least win the prize for selling the most candy bars for the fundraiser. For more on this series, visit the Charlie Bumpers website here.
Check out the Teacher's Guide or read an Excerpt.

“Master storyteller Harley scores again with fourth-grader Charlie Bumpers” ―Kirkus Reviews
illustrated by Alice Ratterree

For half her life, Lily has been trapped in a birdcage while her giant kidnapper sits beside her, writing in a leather-bound book the size of a house. But tonight she is escaping so she can find her way home to Lilliput. Inspired by Gulliver’s TravelsLilliput is an exhilarating and imaginative adventure filled with cunning escape plans, evil clock makers, and talkative parrots. 
Read an Excerpt.
“Cliffhanger chapter endings and vibrant language should quickly ensnare readers of this suspenseful takeoff from Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels… This literate romp through 18th-century London will have readers cheering Lily home.” ―Publishers Weekly
Young Adult Books

Jennifer can’t go on like this—binging, purging, starving, and all while trying to appear like she’s got it all together. But when she finally confesses her secret to her parents and is hospitalized at the Samuel Tuke Center, her journey is only beginning. Using her trademark dark humor and powerful emotion, J. J. Johnson tells an inspiring story based on her own experience when she was hospitalized for an eating disorder as a teenager. 

Read an Excerpt.

“Compelling and authentic, this story is impossible to put down… Perfect for fans of Laurie Halse Anderson’s Wintergirls (2009), Believarexic is a raw, memorable reading experience.” ―Booklist, STARRED REVIEW


Find these titles this fall at your local libraryindie bookstore, or Barnes & Noble. Check out our "New Season, New List" post to see our newest hardcovers for the Fall 2017 season!