The U.S. Constitution and You, Second Edition

The U.S. Constitution and You, Second Edition by Syl Sobel, J.D.  Barron’s Educational Series, Inc., 2012.  48 pages.  Publisher recommends for ages 8-10.

I had hopes that the second edition of “The U.S. Constitution and You” would be better than the first. Unfortunately, it’s still a confusing book. It presents a very complex set of information.  The attempts made to simplify the information only make it more confusing. For instance there is no indication of how the president is chosen. Besides that, there is a diagram of “The President and the Departments of the Cabinet,” but nowhere in the text is there a discussion of what the Cabinet is. There is a focus on the judicial branch of government, but the author uses “court” to mean federal courts in some cases and state courts in others.

The pictures in the book are still black white and blue drawings. They still look like they come from a 1950s textbook.

There is an indication in this edition that the Framers are sometimes referred to as “The Founding Fathers.”  And the sentences that started with “We call this…” In the previous edition have been replaced, yet the tone is still condescending.

What was the “Selected Bibliography” in the first edition is called a “Resource Guide” in this edition.

This edition adds a discussion question at the end of some of the chapters. However, the answers to the discussion questions are not always in the chapter just read. At the end of the introduction, the discussion question is “Who gives the U.S. government its power?”  Yet nothing is written about who gives the government its power in the introduction.

As with the previous edition, I wish I could say something positive about this book. Instead, however, I find it muddies an already complex set of information.

The U.S. Constitution and You

The U.S. Constitution and You, by Syl Sobel. Illustrated by Denise Gilgannon. Barron’s Educational Series, Inc., 2001.

Perhaps page 14 is the best place to begin in considering The U.S. Constitution and You. Page 14 is the beginning of the chapter entitled “Three Branches of Government.” A graphic at the top of the page illustrates the executive branch first with a drawing of the White House, then the legislative branch with a drawing of the Capitol building, and finally the judicial branch with a drawing of the Supreme Court building. However, the chapter begins with the legislative branch, followed by the executive branch and finally the judicial branch. This is an example of the sloppiness of the book. The section about the legislative branch makes clear that there are two houses of Congress, the Senate and the House of Representatives. It does not make clear how the members of these two houses are chosen. It does say members are chosen by the people of each state, but nowhere in the book does it mention that two senators are chosen from each state and that the number of representatives depends on the size of the population of the state. It also doesn’t indicate that in the original Constitution the Senators from each state were chosen by the legislative body within the state. In fact, the book seems to be uncertain about whether it is addressing the Constitution itself or the Constitution plus the Amendments. Yet the book does have a separate chapter on the Rights of the People, and a section on Amendments after the Bill of Rights.

The tone of the book is condescending. For example, the sentence “We now call these people the Framers, for framing the rules of our government.” Never mind that U.S. citizens often call the people who wrote the Constitution the “Founding Fathers,” or the “Founders,” or any of a number of terms other than “Framers,” the sentence is condescending. I would have objected to the use of “We” in this way in a book for four-year-olds. This book is aimed at grades three through five.

The graphics are boring. All of the graphics are black and white and blue. All are hand drawn and appeared to come from a textbook written in the 1950s.

At the back of the book is a “Selected Bibliography.”  The implication when using the term selected bibliography is that these are some of the books the author used to write “The U.S. Constitution and You.”  I can certainly understand that the author would have referred to these books in order to see what other information is available for this age group, but I would hope the author used adult books about the Constitution in order to write this book.

I’d like very much to say something positive about this book. I think the most positive thing I can say is that while this book is still available on Amazon, a new edition, from 2012, is also available. I hope it will be significantly different. If it is I look forward to writing a review of it.