Picture Book Review: The Principle of Justice by Jeffery Lee Cheatham II

The Principle of Justice written by Jeffery Lee Cheatham II, illustrated by Xander A. Nesbitt

A background of bright green geranium leaves with red centers. My hand holds the bottom left corner of a bluish tree hardback book. The cover features a Black girl wearing a crown and green dress. She is holding apart a large, mad looking hippo and an angry crocodile wearing a crown. The title is written across the top “The Principle of Justice”. In the corners are silver filigrees.
Image description: A background of bright green geranium leaves with red centers. My hand holds the bottom left corner of a bluish tree hardback book. The cover features a Black girl wearing a crown and green dress. She is holding apart a large, mad looking hippo and an angry crocodile wearing a crown. The title is written across the top “The Principle of Justice”. In the corners are silver filigrees.

Book description: Journey with Melanin Origins as we share a short story about the principle of justice. A principle that states, “I will be fair in all that I do; I will not cheat myself or others.”

King Hippo’s crown has gone missing and he suspects King Crocodile. Last year the two had a water race and King Crocodile was a sore loser about it. So now King Hippo believes he’s getting back at him for winning. Thankfully Princess Nubia is there to help sort things out. She encourages King Hippo not to jump to conclusions and to do some deeper investigation to find who actually stole the crown.

This is a good mix of parable and fable to demonstrate to kids that we when you are angry and feeling wronged it’s harmful to jump to conclusions and make accusations. It also demonstrates the benefit of getting help to mediate conflict. Hippo is wrong about Crocodile and his accusations just make Crocodile mad, rightfully so. The two of them getting heated is not helpful so Princess Nubia helps them solve the mystery as well as take responsibility for the accusations and their reactions (both to the stolen crown and the lost race the year before).

While this exact story may not play out on the playground or between siblings, it is almost inevitable conflict like this will arise in schoolyards, classrooms, and shared bedrooms. How wonderful to have a story that addresses the issue and models apologizing and taking ownership of your actions. As with the other books in the Ma’at Series, you could read this preemptively or as specific situations arise. Princess Nubia will give you plenty to discuss about how to handle conflict and children will connect with her sense of justice and level-headedness (even if they aren’t always those things themselves). All the books in the series have struck a good balance between being engaging and interesting, offering a lesson, and still not being overly long for their target audience of pre-k, kinder, and first grade children.

I have one small quibble with the story. King Turtle is taken away when it is discovered he is the one who stole the crown and we don’t hear from him again. I would have liked to see some resolution there and some responsibility and restoration take place on his part. However, this is a good opportunity to allow children to use their imaginations to tell what happens to King Turtle and what a good resolution and restitution for his role in the story would be. It’s also possible children will not give Turtle much thought once he’s off page and the main conflict between Hippo and Crocodile is resolved.

This whole series is recommended for libraries that serve homeschooling families and religious communities and also for school libraries that have social emotional wellbeing as part of the elementary curriculum.

Purchase the book here (not affiliate links). Please, in this uncertain time, if at all possible, purchase from an independent/local bookstore. They need our help right now.

Final note: If you do purchase this book, please post a review of it on Amazon. This will help other folks find the book and know that it’s worth purchasing. If you use any other book services like GoodReads or your local library’s online catalog be sure to post a review there too! And if your local library doesn’t have a copy, request that they purchase one.

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