IT COULDN’T BE WORSE!

Van Kampen (A Drop of Gold, not reviewed, etc.) brings her illustrative and retelling talents to a classic folktale retold earlier by Margot Zemach (It Could Always Be Worse, 1977). Although Zemach kept the Rabbi in the Yiddish variant, van Kampen puts a fishmonger in that role—that of the wise person whose advice is sought. The farmer and his wife need a solution for the noise and quarreling among their six children and grandparents in a one-room house. The fishmonger advises them to bring a goat into their home and promises things will be better, but when that doesn’t happen, he advises them to take sheep into their home. Soon there is a menagerie of animals and all of the people inside. The noise and chaos that result do little to “make things better.” The fishmonger finally tells the farmer’s wife to remove the animals and the environment in the house does become “much better” thanks to the very wise fishmonger. Van Kampen adds pictures of individual animals or characters on white backgrounds within the text adjacent to larger pictures that flow across double-paged spreads drawing the reader into the story. Several traditional, double-paged spreads are interspersed throughout as well. Beautiful illustrations complementing a very satisfying retelling make this a winner for the youngest of listeners and for older readers as well. (Picture book/folktale. 4-9)

Pub Date: March 1, 2003

ISBN: 1-55037-782-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2003

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Provocative reading for anyone concerned about the intersection of race and capital punishment.

KILLING WITH PREJUDICE

INSTITUTIONALIZED RACISM IN AMERICAN CAPITAL PUNISHMENT

The story of the Supreme Court decision McCleskey v. Kemp (1987), which underscores “the lingering racial and socioeconomic inequalities endemic to capital punishment in the United States.”

In 1978 in Atlanta, Georgia, Warren McCleskey, an African-American, was arrested for killing a white police officer during a furniture store robbery. After years of litigation, writes Maratea (The Politics of the Internet: Political Claims-making in Cyberspace and How It’s Affecting Modern Political Activism, 2014, etc.), his death penalty sentencing was upheld by the Supreme Court in a decision that overlooked “compelling empirical data suggesting that Georgia’s death process was replete with systemic racial bias.” McCleskey was executed in 1991. In this thoughtful and disturbing account, the author traces the story of the case. He argues not that McCleskey was innocent but that he was sentenced to death under a system in which killers of white people were four times more likely as killers of blacks to be sentenced to death. The latter assertion, made by McCleskey’s lawyers, was based on a “detailed and peer-reviewed” study of 2,500 Georgia murder cases by University of Iowa law professor David C. Baldus. He concluded that all individuals convicted of murdering whites were far more likely to receive the death penalty. In its 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled the defense failed to show evidence of deliberate bias by law officials and dismissed the data on disparities in sentencing as inevitable in the criminal justice system. Noting that the decision “affirmed institutionalized racial disparities” in the capital punishment system, Maratea examines the force of “old habits of mind and racial attitudes” going back to the Civil War era. He finds that “capital punishment has borne a close resemblance to lynching in Georgia, where more extralegal executions of black Americans occurred than in any other state.” As lynchings declined in the 20th-century South, “the infliction of the death penalty by the courts increased,” according to historian William S. McFeely.

Provocative reading for anyone concerned about the intersection of race and capital punishment.

Pub Date: Feb. 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4798-8860-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: New York Univ.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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The author’s consistently absorbing commentary on a wide variety of legal cases will require close attention by readers, but...

THE MAKING OF A JUSTICE

REFLECTIONS ON MY FIRST 94 YEARS

The retired Supreme Court justice chronicles his impressive life story, including his 34-year tenure with the court.

Born in 1920, Stevens (Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution, 2014, etc.) recounts his privileged upbringing, early law career, and lower-court experience before providing nearly 400 pages of year-by-year decision-making as a Supreme Court justice. A Republican appointed by President Gerald Ford, Stevens transcended the party ideology of many court colleagues in order to work together with those appointed by Democratic presidents. Despite the conventional wisdom of court chroniclers who identify justices as “conservative” or “liberal,” the author’s majority opinions and dissents cannot be easily pigeonholed. He candidly shares his thought processes on hundreds of cases, often openly criticizing his fellow justices for their lack of legal acumen and/or lack of compassion. Stevens is frequently critical of justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas for the refuge they have sought in the theory of originalism. Refreshingly, though, the author never attacks his fellow justices in a personal, gossipy manner, and he discusses his varying degrees of friendship with each of them. Stevens theorizes that the dynamics of the court—and the nature of the rulings—undergo transformation every time a new justice joins. As a result, the author presents brief sections about the immediate impact of each new justice during his 34 years, ending with his successor in 2010, Elena Kagan. Although Stevens reveres the court’s reputation as a nonpartisan arbiter, he realizes that reputation has never fully recovered from the politically tinged 5-4 ruling in 2000 that handed the presidency to George W. Bush rather than Al Gore. The author also offers searing commentary on cases involving abortion rights, gun control, wrongful convictions in criminal courts, campaign finance, and many other ongoing societal issues.

The author’s consistently absorbing commentary on a wide variety of legal cases will require close attention by readers, but the payoff is worth it.

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-48964-5

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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