Ruth Bader Ginsburg looms large in our memories — and on our library shelves. In the past six years, a whopping 58 biographies have been published about RBG. They run the gamut from colorful board book to scholarly text, beginner reader to feminist manifesto. If you want to learn more about the first Jewish woman to serve on the United States Supreme Court, there is a book for you.
While it’s great to see our late, great heroine getting the attention she deserves, 58+ volumes is an awful lot to choose from. Children in this country, male or female, Jewish or not, should take some time to learn about Ginsburg’s fascinating life and astounding legacy, but where to start?
Never fear. I’m a children’s librarian here to point you to the RBG bios that you simply cannot miss, the must-read titles for every age group. You and your kids will finish these books feeling like you both got to know Ginsburg personally and have a solid appreciation for her accomplishments.
I read (OK, sometimes skimmed) nearly two dozen books published between 2016 and 2021, hunting for the ones that have more than just the same set of cute anecdotes (did you know that she chipped a tooth twirling a baton in high school? I definitely do now), that present information in an age-appropriate yet clear way, and have pictures that actually resemble RBG (one particular dud had papercut illustrations that made her look like Peppa Pig — that went right to the bottom of the pile).
Without further ado, I present to you the definitive top five Ruth Bader Ginsburg biographies for kids.
Best Board Book
OK, I lied slightly. There is no “best board book” about RBG. I read two — one that fell very flat and one that was great, except that the text was really beyond what I’d consider a board book reading level (i.e., for babies and young toddlers). I have yet to find a board book about Ginsburg with toddler-friendly content that isn’t too vague to be meaningful. Dress your little guys in RBG costumes for Purim and hold on a bit; you can get them acquainted with her awesomeness soon enough.
Best For Reading Aloud
Looking for a girl power bedtime story? Want to get your kid familiar with your heroes? I’ve got you covered.
“No Truth Without Ruth: The Life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg” by Kathleen Krull is a straightforward and clearly-worded narrative that hits all the important points, is pleasantly illustrated, and includes a great “Top 10 Moments When Ruth Bader Ginsburg Fought for Fairness on the Supreme Court” list at the end.
Best for a Kid Who is New to Reading on their Own
At some point, kids want books they can tackle by themselves. Leveled readers have the perfect balance of information and ease of use for a kid who’s new to reading rather than being read to.
“Ruth Bader Ginsburg” by Rose Davidson gives kids a proper grounding in RBG’s accomplishments and how they affected the whole country. It’s loaded with photographs, side notes and other tidbits that help them understand what everything means.
Best for an Elementary or Middle School Classroom, or an Older Kid Who Wants to Learn Something But Isn’t Up for a Full Chapter Book
The picture book biography format can be kind of awkward: There are beautifully written and illustrated titles out there that don’t necessarily reach their intended audience because on the surface they look like they’re meant for younger readers. But some of the richest language and finest artwork is to be found in titles like this.
“Ruth Objects: The Life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg” by Doreen Rappaport is full of solid informative content and thoughtful language. The book uses quotes of things RBG actually said to punctuate descriptions of her life and impact.
Best for a Biography Book Report
It happens every January like clockwork: 3rd graders stream into my library in search of material for the annual biography book report. If your kid hasn’t been assigned one yet, it’ll happen eventually.
“The Story of Ruth Bader Ginsburg” by Susan B. Katz is a well-written chapter book loaded with attractive, colorful pictures that highlight Ginsburg’s story and keep the reader focused. Essential vocabulary words are bolded, then defined in a glossary at the back.
Best for Upper Elementary, Teens or Adults Who Want to Know More But Don’t Want to Deal with a 700-Page Tome
There are some killer RBG books chilling in the adult biography section of your local library, but not everyone has the time and the mental space to toil all the way through an encyclopedic academic volume replete with legal jargon and comprehensive footnotes. That doesn’t mean appreciating Ginsburg’s true awesomeness is beyond your reach. You can learn everything you truly need to know from this short but satisfying book.
“Dissenter on the Bench: Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Life and Work” by Victoria Ortiz frames RBG’s life with vignettes from major cases that she worked on, showing the connections between her life experiences and her subsequent influence. Very detailed but totally readable.
Bonus RBG Content That We Can All Enjoy
“The RBG Workout: How She Stays Strong and You Can Too” by Bryant Johnson is written by Ginsburg’s personal trainer (with her permission). It details the workout she was doing well into her 80s to stay fit. If your idea of exercise is chasing your kids to bed or walking home from the bus stop (or you just don’t have a consistent routine), this is actually a really good place to start, with clear instructions and fun illustrations of RBG in a hoodie and pink leggings getting the job done.
“RBG’s Brave and Brilliant Women: 33 Women to Inspire Everyone” by Nadine Epstein is a collaboration between Ginsburg and journalist Epstein, spotlighting 33 Jewish women that they thought everyone should know more about. Collective biographies like this can get boring quickly, but this is cleverly designed and does a great job of making connections between the lives of these women and the present day. If you’re looking for a book to give as a bar/bat mitzvah gift, this is an excellent pick.
Bonus Bonus: RBG Biography Bingo
Over the course of reading so many books about RBG, I kept coming across some fun facts that every author seemed to think readers would find interesting. To be fair, I did find most of them interesting! After a while, I made a bingo card with my favorites and tried to win the game with each book. You can play Ruth Bader Ginsburg Biography Bingo, too!
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