The late Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is the debut luminary featured in You Are a Star, a new series of illustrated biographies from Scholastic written by Dean Robbins. Due on February 1 in simultaneous hardcover and paperback editions, You Are a Star, Ruth Bader Ginsburg combines a first-person narrative, lively comic panels by Sarah Green, and biographical details about Ginsburg, a venerable, unwavering champion of equality and justice for all. Another indefatigable crusader headlines the series’ second entry, You Are a Star, Jane Goodall, illustrated by Hatem Aly, scheduled for spring 2023. The 40-page books are aimed at readers ages five to seven.

Robbins, a journalist whose previous picture book biographies include Two Friends: Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass, Margaret and the Moon: How Margaret Hamilton Saved the First Lunar Landing, and Thank You, Dr. Salk!: The Scientist Who Beat Polio and Healed the World, has a history of writing from the heart. “I tend to fall in love with certain historical figures, reading everything about them, putting their pictures on my wall, and visiting the places where they lived,” the author explained. “As a result, they begin to feel like family to me. My inspiration for writing this series was to make young readers feel the same way. Rather than seeing people like Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Jane Goodall as distant, iconic characters—like statues on a pedestal—they’ll view them as friendly, funny, down-to-earth people they can emulate.”

Meshing Fact and Fun

To help accomplish that goal, Robbins chose to write the books in the first person, which he noted “was a new challenge for me—and a fun one.” Acknowledging that numerous books about Ginsburg and Goodall exist, the author said that his new biographies aim to be distinctive in tone and structure. “I saw an opening to be less reverent and more playful,” he said. “For all their great achievements, both women are wonderfully idiosyncratic, with lots of eccentric experiences. The You Are a Star series is structured to bring out those elements. The main story progresses from spread to spread, but each spread also includes a two-panel comic and a sidebar that delve into the fun, little-known details of these lives.”

This format, added senior editor Katie Heit, who acquired You Are a Star soon after arriving at Scholastic in 2019, combines humor and fact in way that “allows for a lot of engagement with the reader.” She noted that, as she and Robbins worked together to develop the structure for You Are a Star, “one of the things we most wanted to focus on was how to infuse more humor into the growing biography market.” The editor credits Green for instilling her art with a sense of fun, noting that the illustrator “has done a really beautiful job portraying Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her big personality in an engaging and kid-friendly way.”

Robbins also praised Green for the balance she brings to her illustrations. “Since the goal was to bring out the drama and humor in Ginsburg’s life, I couldn’t have worked with a better illustrator than Sarah,” he said. “Her style makes the story come alive in ways I never would have imagined while writing it. She’s brilliant at rendering funny moments—as when Ruth tries unsuccessfully to cook, sing opera, or write with her right hand—as well as poignant moments like Ruth gazing at the Statue of Liberty and imagining a fairer future for the United States.”

Star Gazing, Present and Future

Author and editor are both pleased to raise the curtain on You Are a Star with biographies of these two trailblazing women—and look forward to introducing young readers to more heroes. “When choosing the topics for this series, we really want to focus on individuals who were game changers in their respective field,” Heit said. “Ruth Bader Ginsburg spent her life fighting for equal rights and Jane Goodall’s ongoing conservation work remains necessary as we fight climate change. These women have had a huge impact on the world, and it’s been really exciting to feature them in these first two books. And we’re looking forward to building this series with additional inspiring figures.”

“As a writer, I feel like the ultimate way I can get closer to my heroes is to tell a story about them,” Robbins said. He addedthat the “ultimate way I can get closer to my heroes is to write a story about them,” and he found that featuring them at the start of this series was both fitting and fulfilling. “It was deeply gratifying to try to bring Ginsburg and Goodall to life, since they are among the most inspiring figures of our age,” he said. “Ginsburg broke barriers for women in the legal profession while working to make the country’s laws fairer for everyone. And Goodall overcame many obstacles to pursue her passion as a primatologist, including a lack of opportunities for women scientists in the 1950s and ’60s. Her groundbreaking discoveries transformed our understanding of life on Earth, and her environmental activism has inspired people around the world.”

Finally, the author commented on the propitious timing of You Are a Star’s launch, as the world enters a third year of a devastating pandemic. “In our troubled times, it’s more important than ever to give children insight into history and the diverse people who have made significant contributions,” he said. “In my wildest dreams, I hope the first two You Are a Star books will help kids grow up to be like Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Jane Goodall. The more they emulate these heroes, the better our world will be.”

You Are a Star, Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Dean Robbins, illus. by Sarah Green. Scholastic, $19.99 Feb 1 ISBN 978-1-338-76767-4; $7.99 paper ISBN 978-1-338-76766-7