Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Friday, February 5, 2021

Equal Justice Under Law

For those visiting the nation's capital of the United States, they are setting foot in a place steeped in the remarkable words and actions of individuals from the past to present day.  Countless women and men have worked to build visible structures and to ensure the Constitution in its entirety is upheld for 

We the People.

For many, more than others, the challenges started at the beginning and continue.  Their resolve has led us closer to forming a 

more perfect Union.

One such individual is portrayed in a collaboration of two Coretta Scott King Honor winners in The Highest Tribute: Thurgood Marshall's Life, Leadership, and Legacy (Quill Tree Books, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, January 5, 2021) written by Kekla Magoon with illustrations by Laura Freeman.

Thoroughgood Marshall was in second grade when
he decided that if there was something he didn't like
about the world, he should try to change it.

The first thing he changed was his first name.  Growing up in Baltimore, Maryland, Thurgood was privy to the separate but not equal laws dictating segregation.  Parental conversations around the dinner table supported rising above this discrimination.  If he were to alter the laws, Thurgood knew his parents' demand for getting a good education needed to be met.

An incident at school prompted Thurgood to learn more about the law.  In high school and college at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, he flourished as a member of the debate team.  On the college debate team, Thurgood was part of a first, the first interracial U. S. college debate.  In college he met one of his staunchest supporters, his first wife Vivian "Buster" Burey.  (She later died of cancer.)  

Thurgood studied to be a lawyer at Howard University Law School because he could not attend the University of Maryland as a Black student.  One of his first major victories as an attorney was to win a case so another Black man could attend the University of Maryland.  Soon Thurgood became the special counsel for the NAACP.  Four years later, he argued and won his first Supreme Court case.  In the early 1950s Thurgood Marshall's arguments garnered him a win before the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education.

Seven additional Supreme Court cases were won by Thurgood Marshall.  He remarried Cecilia "Cissy" Suyat. President John F. Kennedy asked, and Thurgood Marshall answered by becoming a judge in 1961.  Year after year Thurgood Marshall broke barriers, the first Black man to be solicitor general, the first to win more Supreme Court cases than any other attorney, and the first Black man to be nominated for the Supreme Court.  On October 2, 1967 he began his service on the court.  When he retired, he did something no Supreme Court judge had done previously.  Even in death Thurgood Marshall received one final honor for his life's work in service for all.

Very early in her presentation of Thurgood Marshall to readers, author Kekla Magoon establishes  a single underlying current which guides his life choices.  This becomes a thought she entwines into the narrative of his accomplishments.  As readers, we are captivated by specific details Kekla Magoon includes.  She allows us to see how his natural and acquired skills build toward his seat on the Supreme Court. Here is a passage.

Thurgood joined the high school debate club.  It was a good
place to ask his questions and discuss solutions.  He liked
discovering facts that he could use to win an argument.  He
liked being part of a team.  He liked using words and ideas to
persuade people to see complicated issues in a new way.   

On the open and matching dust jacket and book case, artist Laura Freeman features Thurgood Marshall dedicated and filled with purpose in his facial expressions and body postures.  On the front he is placed before the Supreme Court building where he served as the first Black man with this distinction.  To the left, on the back, Thurgood Marshall and two other members of his legal team are striding away from the Supreme Court building.  Superimposed on the court steps are newspaper headlines heralding the triumph of the Brown v. Board of Education win.

On the opening and closing endpapers is a shade taken from Thurgood Marshall's tie and the title text on the jacket and case.  On the title page text frames Thurgood Marshall, hand raised, as he takes the oath of office for the Supreme Court.  On the verso the Scales of Justice are placed between the dedication and publication information.  On the next page is a quotation of Thurgood Marshall containing words used in the title. 

The digital illustrations rendered in Photoshop are double-page pictures.  They portray significant events in various perspectives.  These different points of view draw readers into each scene.  In several of the visuals more than one particular success is highlighted.  Light, shadow, and adept layering fashion impressive images.  With every page turn, you find yourself pausing.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is when Thurgood is a student prior to attending high school.  On a crisp white background is a layer with the original words from the Preamble to the United States Constitution in a light blue.  We move in close to Thurgood reading the Constitution in an open rich, dark red book.  All we see are his hands holding the book and the upper portion of his face, eyes down as he reads.  (The child with the book covers one-and-one-half pages.)

With each portion of this exceptional man's life revealed to us in The Highest Tribute: Thurgood Marshall's Life, Leadership, and Legacy written by Kekla Magoon with art by Laura Freeman, we find our considerable respect growing page by page.  This book is certain to motivate readers of all ages to never falter in their pursuit of their personal best.  At the close of the book is a Thurgood Marshall Timeline, a list of Major Court Cases, suggestions for Further Reading and a Bibliography.  I highly recommend this title for your professional and personal collections. 

To learn more about Kekla Magoon and Laura Freeman and their other work, please access their respective websites by following the link attached to their names.  Kekla Magoon has accounts on Facebook and Twitter.  Laura Freeman has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  At author Kate Messner's website, the cover for this title is revealed with Kekla Magoon speaking about this book.  At author Cynthia Leitch Smith's blog, Cynsations, you'll enjoy reading Guest Post: Kekla Magoon on Writing The Highest Tribute: Thurgood Marshall's Life, Leadership, and Legacy.  At the publisher's website is a Teaching Guide.  At the publisher's blog, Harper Stacks, the author has written a guest post about this title.

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