“To find justice,” writes former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in his new children’s book, Justice Is…: A Guide for Young Truth Seekers,“ask all kinds of people to join your search. Justice needs to hear every side of the story.” And in this picture book follow-up to his bestselling memoir, Doing Justice: A Prosecutor’s Thoughts on Crime, Punishment, and the Rule of Law, he encourages children to explore the concept of justice and hear the stories of those who fought for it. Including profiles of John Lewis, Nelson Mandela, Harvey Milk, Ida B. Wells, and Malala Yousafzai, among others, Bharara reminds readers that it is never too early to begin discussing fairness and offers children inspirational figures in the battle for a just world. We spoke with Bharara about the impetus for this work, his thoughts on the timeliness of its focus, and his advice for those who are seeking justice in their own communities.

Why did you decide to write a book on justice for children?

First I wrote a book about my experiences in the world of justice as the U.S. Attorney, and I’ve always been inspired by young people and thought we don’t give them enough credit. At a very young age, children will talk about fairness in their interactions with their family members, and let you know when something is not fair. So, I don’t think you can start too early giving children examples of heroic figures, some of them children themselves like Malala Yousafzai and Elizabeth Eckford [of the Little Rock Nine], who were courageous and worked hard to make sure that their country, their world, was fair and just. When Random House and I talked we thought about creating a work that would allow parents to introduce their children to some really significant figures, modern and historic, both in America and the world at large.

In Doing Justice you talk about your background as an immigrant from India. What role did that play in this book?

I think my status as an immigrant has encouraged me to give back to the country that adopted us years ago and I chose to do that through the law. I devoted most of my adult life to issues of justice and fairness. I went to law school for that purpose and wrote Doing Justice about those issues, and this children’s book is a natural extension of that focus, but reducing it to its simple essence for young people.

How did you narrow down which justice warriors to incorporate in this book?

Some of the figures in this work I have spent a lifetime admiring. I was born in India and my dad would tell me stories about Gandhi and Indian independence. In the book we wanted to make sure we had a good mix of people, from different countries, age groups, and backgrounds. Each and every one of them in some way advanced the cause of truth and justice, whether it was John Lewis, who was with us very recently, or Sojourner Truth, a former slave. To understand justice, you have to understand and appreciate and confront injustice, so we do reference some bad things that happened in the world, such as the Japanese internment camps, slavery, and the like.

Why do you think this book is so necessary today?

I think discussions about what makes society, what makes institutions, fair and just are undervalued, underappreciated, and don’t happen enough. We’re often consumed with the language of rules and statutes, and constitutions, as we should be, but then we lose sight of the fact that if you don’t have good people who are brave and courageous, who will stand up for the principles embodied in those rules and in those constitutions, you get injustice. No rule of law or constitution is going to do the work and safeguard rights if the people are not willing to do it. So, this book tries to introduce young people to a wide array of people who did the work by being careful moral voices and role models. Take Malala Yousafzai as an example, just the fact that she continued to fight for the rights of young girls to be educated after being shot herself at the age of 15 is proof of what a young person can do and inspire on the world stage. And I think more young people need to be exposed to stories like hers, perhaps creating a higher chance that some of them will choose that path themselves.

We are at a time when there are some people in this country who want to whitewash history, to take books off of the shelves. You can’t understand justice unless you have some understanding of what the opposite is. Japanese internment happened, slavery happened. Furthermore, I think we underestimate the need for young people to have inspirational figures in their lives. So, the book is in some ways a springboard to further conversations and reading and learning for young people whose parents care about the country and their futures.

What’s your advice to young justice fighters who may be frustrated by what they are seeing in the world today?

There’s a feeling of dread on the part of some people that we are mixing up our values and we’re not being true to what the country is supposed to be about. We see a lot of people in the world today who fail to do the right thing because they want to maintain power or political favor. The common story of all of the people in the book is how much they had to suffer to do the right thing. As the book says, “justice can be slow; justice can be dangerous, or denied for a while,” but it is worth it in the end.

Justice Is...: A Guide for Young Truth Seekers by Preet Bharara, illus. by Sue Cornelison. Crown, $17.99 Jan. 25 ISBN 978-0-593-17662-7