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In Defense of Liberty: The Story of America's Bill of Rights (Orbis Pictus Honor for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children (Awards)) Hardcover – July 1, 2003

3.6 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 5 Up-Once again, Freedman demonstrates his masterful ability to focus on those aspects of a historical event, figure, or, in this case, document, that will intrigue readers and give history a sense of immediacy. He prefaces his thorough examination of the Bill of Rights with some engaging questions: Can schoolchildren be required to salute the American flag and recite the Pledge of Allegiance? Can a rap group be prosecuted for using "obscene" lyrics? Does the Constitution allow school officials to use physical punishment? Freedman briefly discusses the evolution of the Constitution and Bill of Rights from ideas first set forth in the Magna Carta and then examines the first 10 amendments in individual chapters packed with potential scenarios or real-life examples of infringements of Constitutional rights. Milton Meltzer's The Bill of Rights (HarperCollins, 1990), which is similar in scope, was written before the privacy issues raised by the advent of the Internet, new technological spying capabilities, the question of whether homeland security can be attained without sacrificing Sixth Amendment protections, and other issues that are considered here. The author describes and quotes from Supreme Court cases, which are listed in an index giving both print and online sources for the full texts of the decisions. Black-and-white photos and reproductions appear throughout. This excellent study of the continually evolving meaning and interpretation of the Bill of Rights is a fine companion volume to Freedman's Give Me Liberty! (Holiday, 2000) and is an essential purchase for all libraries.
Ginny Gustin, Sonoma County Library System, Santa Rosa, CA
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Gr. 5-10. Freedman is at his best in this compelling, timely discussion of the Constitution and civil liberties. In his signature clear, conversational prose, he talks about the history of the Bill of Rights, from the time it was first voted on two centuries ago through the ongoing struggle to keep people free. What does that word people mean? For a long time, the term didn't include African Americans, Native Americans, or women. Freedman devotes a chapter to each amendment, covering its origin, various interpretations, landmark Supreme Court cases, and, always, the contemporary scene, including the conflicts now raging about national security and individual freedom in the aftermath of 9/11. He cites many cases involving young people and he is careful to discuss many sides of controversial topics such as abortion and capital punishment. The book design is beautiful, with thick paper, lots of white space, historical prints (including an archival print of the Bill of Rights), and lots of photos. This is a must for classroom discussion and personal interest, and the source notes and annotated bibliography at the back, as spaciously laid out as the text, will help readers find out more. Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 1270L (What's this?)
  • Series: Orbis Pictus Honor for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children (Awards)
  • Hardcover: 196 pages
  • Publisher: Holiday House; 1 edition (July 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0823415856
  • ISBN-13: 978-0823415854
  • Product Dimensions: 10.2 x 8.4 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,295,885 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Daniel Jolley HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 31, 2004
Format: Hardcover
In my opinion, every public library should have two copies of this book - one for the children/young adult section (its primary audience) and another for the adult nonfiction section. In Defense of Liberty: The Story of America's Bill of Rights is as straightforward and educational as any book I've seen on the subject, and anyone who was born an American, sought and won American citizenship, or is just thinking about becoming an American would do well to read this book. America's enemies could also learn a lot from this book, as it clearly shows the unprecedented liberties upon which this nation was founded and still abides.
After an introductory chapter or two setting the stage for the birth of the Constitution and the passionate demands for a Bill of Rights to protect the freedoms of every single American, Russell Freedman launches into a cogent discussion of each of the first ten amendments to the Constitution. He refers back to English law as far back as the signing of the Magna Carta (1215) and the English Bill of Rights (1689) for the precedents and origins of the liberties espoused by the Founding Fathers. "We the people" were not asking for concessions and liberties from the new central government; they were codifying the primacy of these individual freedoms and drawing a clear line in the sand over which the new government would not be allowed to cross. The author points out that the freedoms espoused in the Bill of Rights were not enjoyed by every American for many years to come, but he shows how the document was flexible enough to serve an ever-changing nation over the course of time. It is easy to take for granted the Bill of Rights today, but this truly was the cornerstone of a government the likes of which the world had never seen.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
On April 23, 2003, William Baue reported in SocialFunds.com:
IN DEFENSE OF LIBERTY: THE STORY OF AMERICA'S BILL OF RIGHTS is first a brief history of the formulation of the US Bill of Rights. It is also a look at how the black-robed trustees of the "462 words written two centuries ago" which "promise the basic civil liberties that all Americans enjoy as their birthright" have not always kept that promise for all Americans, and it examines how these words are interpreted and reinterpreted as the group of individuals serving on the Supreme Court change, as society, technology, and other factors change, and as new circumstances and new laws come into play.
Interpretation of new laws in relationship to the Constitution is called judicial review. When it comes to the Bill of Rights, judicial review constantly reveals those 462 words to be a living, enduring organism that is relevant today, no matter what day today is. It causes many of us to be forever amazed by the genius of the Founding Fathers in gathering these words/ideas/ideals (particularly when they and their progeny were such jerks in keeping those sacred rights to themselves and their white male moneyed Protestant slave-owning counterparts for so damned long).
For such a book to have some lasting value to a reader and to a library collection, it must illuminate the beginnings and flow of Constitutional history in such a way that readers can understand the process and utilize that understanding as a stepping stone for future exploration as the Bill of Rights continues evolving through new justices and new Court cases.
Russell Freedman's book does just that. It shows how times change and decisions change.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am using this book for my 6th grader in our study of the Bill of Rights. The coverage of the 1st Amendment I thought was pretty good, with a good history of judicial decisions. However, when I got to the 2nd Amendment, I found it to be pure anti-gun propoganda with no appreciation or knowledge of the founders' purpose for putting it there. I found some good material for kids on the 2nd Amendment on the NRA web site.
The coverage of the rest of the Amendments is pretty good, except the 10th. Here again we see an anti-federalism interpretation which disturbs me. The authors write as if it is a mystery what we should delegate to the states. Then ch. 13 is entitled, "Madison's most valuable amendment," the one that didn't get included. Well, this is what Madison argued, but obviously the others in Congress didn't agree for federalist reasons. If you are going to use this book, find other sources on the 2nd and 10th.
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Format: Hardcover
If you are looking for a liberal viewpoint to present to a child, you may be pleased with this book. However, if you are looking for a different viewpoint, or, my choice, a book with no slant to it, but rather one that presents an unbiased look at all major sides, then you should look elsewhere.
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