Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor talk about her new children’s book, Just help!with nighttime host Seth Meyers on Tuesday.
The judge’s third book for children, on the importance of being helpful to others, was published this week by Philomel. A critic of Kirkus called it “a picture book that at least helps to fill the time.”
Sotomayor told Meyers that she considered writing for children to be one of her most important work.
“Yeah, writing an opinion helps a little bit in my job,” she said. “But I think writing for kids and writing about topics that I think can inspire them to believe in themselves, the most important thing is that I can do it outside of the courtroom.”
“As a child, did you appreciate how important it was to be helpful to those around you?” Meyers asked the judge.
“No,” replied Sotomayor, laughing from the audience. “Because you learn by example, and I saw my mom do it… And growing up, I found out, you know something? [She] be an example to me, now I must follow it. You could take small steps, then bigger steps, and this book, Just help!, is about some of those bigger steps kids can take. Just because you’re a kid doesn’t mean you aren’t powerful.”
Meyers asked Sotomayor if her young readers know she’s on the Supreme Court, or if “they just think you’re a very successful children’s author who also has a side job.”
“I don’t know what the kids think at first, but I do know their parents tell them along the way,” Sotomayor said. “I had a very young child whose mother told me her favorite book was about me, and her mother read it to her every night. And she asked me if she could bring her kid to meet me, and I said, absolutely, yes. And the little girl walked into my office and looked at me, looked around and couldn’t find the figure of me that she had seen in the book. She didn’t realize I was an adult. So she was a little disappointed.”
Michael Schaub is a Texas-based journalist and a regular contributor to NPR.