Re: Constitutions: Connecting Citizens with the Rules of the Game, the latest title from First Second’s World Citizen Comics series, tackles constitutional law through the medium of comics. Bringing an international perspective to her subject matter, political adviser Beka Feathers explores the impact of constitutional documents on everyday life. She also delivers a political call to action, emphasizing the role of civic engagement in defending our constitutional rights. The content in this youth-friendly title is compelling, but its storytelling choices may fail to appeal to a broad audience.
Re: Constitutions follows Marcus, a teenager struggling to write a citizenship essay for his summer internship. As Marcus and his jokey kid sister Aaliyah attend social gatherings and complete volunteer projects around town, neighbors help Marcus with his assignment, telling personal stories that illustrate how our founding documents set the “rules of the game” for our public lives.
As a civics lesson, Re: Constitutions is an impressive read. This book draws on examples as diverse as Kosovo, Argentina, and the United States to demonstrate how constitutions affect the lives of citizens. For an Albanian speaker in Kosovo, a fair constitution guarantees the right to speak a native language; for a woman in Rwanda, the right to female representation in government; and for Marcus’s own grandparents in the United States, the right to buy a house in a formerly segregated neighborhood. In each case, the book is upfront about constitutional failures, lingering on moments when founding documents missed the mark or were betrayed by politicians. Readers learn that it’s up to ordinary citizens to take action and uphold our shared values.
Re: Constitutions is intelligent and incisive, but I worry it’s a book without a clearly defined readership. The teenage protagonists, paired with Kasia Babis’s crisp, colorful art, feel aimed at a middle- or high-school audience. However, this book isn’t an obvious choice for a civics classroom—it’s just too unstructured, more longform essay than textbook. The one exception is the “Guide to Drafting Your Own Constitution” included in the appendix, which gets into the nuts and bolts of constitutional documents and would be an engaging exercise for the classroom.
Though I can’t see this book as a class assignment, I’d be equally surprised if a politically-minded teenager picked it up for leisure reading. In short, Re: Constitutions reads like edutainment. Its artificial framing device and sweetly earnest cast of characters are well-executed but unmemorable, a formula likely to turn off readers. I think this book would have been better served if it had leaned into its own wonkiness and adopted the “explainer” format popularized by Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics, where a stand-in for the author walks readers through a complex topic.
Consider purchasing Re: Constitutions for larger young adult or school library collections, particularly those that emphasize nonfiction comics or civics titles. There’s a chance this book might have relevance for the right reader—perhaps a civics student completing their own citizenship assignment. However, I don’t see this as an essential title for the average public or school library.
Re: Constitutions: Connecting Citizens with the Rules of the Game
By Beka Feathers
Art by Kasia Babis
First Second, 2021
NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16), Tween (10-13)
Character Representation: African-American, Black