top of page
Beate Cover badges low2.jpg



44pp, color

8.25in x 11in
Juvenile Nonfiction: Biography

6 to 10
February 2020







Age Range:



Download Curriculum Guide

    “It is a rare life treat for a Supreme Court Justice to get to meet a  framer of a Constitution. It is rarer indeed for that framer to have been a woman. More importantly, however, Beate helped teach me how to live fully in two cultures and make both my home.”

    — Justice Sonia Sotomayor,  April 23, 2013

    "Beate Sirota Gordon was just 22 years old when her stellar language skills landed her on the U.S. team tasked with writing a new Japanese
constitution at the end of WWII. Her family had fled from Russia to Japan to escape anti-Semitism, and as she grew, Gordon “came to love her new home,” though she disliked its sexism, exemplified through “ugly proverbs” such as “women walk three steps behind.” Gordon advocated for Japanese women’s rights as the new constitution was devised, writing the
language for Article 14, which enshrined equality. Her contribution “should have made headlines.... But the United States considered it a security secret.” Gottesfeld’s compelling telling is supplemented by comprehensive notes. Witanto’s illustrations richly render the story of
an immigrant’s contribution with the precision of old snapshots."

    — Publishers Weekly

    "Beautiful and exceptional picture book"

    — American Jewish Libraries News and Reviews

No Steps Behind:

Beate Sirota Gordon's Battle for

Women's Rights in Japan

By Jeff Gottesfeld

Illustrated by Shiella Witanto

    Beate Sirota came to Japan as a young girl, learning its language, customs, and traditions. She loved her adopted country. When an extraordinary convergence of circumstances gave her the chance, she dared to do the unthinkable — write a clause for the new national constitution guaranteeing women equal rights.

Freeman Award Winner

National Jewish Book Award Finalist

Junior Library Guild Selection

No Steps Behind on "The Book of Life" Podcast


    “Gordon's story is a remarkable tribute to the value of bilingualism, cross-cultural competency, and courageous commitment to justice. . . The richly colored paintings uplift the story, conveying strong emotion and drama through expressive facial expressions and varied perspectives. Valuable and inspiring.”

    — Kirkus

    "Beate Sirota Gordon (1923-2012) may be little known in America, but in Japan, she is considered a hero. Gordon’s father moved the family from Europe to Japan when she was a young girl. She quickly learned the language, made close friends, and came to appreciate the country’s cultural customs. What she did not appreciate was the social and political status of women: they had few, if any, rights. While she attended college in the United States, World War II broke out. Gordon worked as an interpreter for the Army to support herself. Later she was allowed to travel to Japan with the troops. Her command of the Japanese language and familiarity with the country caught the attention of General Douglas MacArthur; he called upon Gordon to help write Japan’s new Constitution. She contributed critical wording for Articles 14 and 24 that ensured women had equal rights under the law. The U.S. considered her involvement a secret, so it wasn’t until decades later that she was able to talk about her contributions. Gordon’s story is compelling. Ample direct quotes draw the reader into important moments. The text is written for younger children, but it serves as a great example to older students of the difference one individual can make. Extensive notes, a time line, and additional references could lead a curious older student to conduct more research...The vivid art uses amber and red tones that lend warmth and convey the emotions of each scene. VERDICT In an era when women are finally being recognized for their important accomplishments, this title adds one more name to the list. It could also encourage a deeper understanding of Japanese and American relations post-Hiroshima and Nagasaki."

    — School Library Journal

    “Beate's amazing story reminds us that each of us — regardless of age, gender, or where you were born — has the power to make a profound difference in the lives of others.”

    — Karen Blumenthal, author of Let Me Play: The Story of Title IX


    “A truly inspiring story about the power of one woman's hope and determination in the face ofentrenched patriarchy. Beate's fierce intelligence and independent spirit shine through each page.”

    — Misa Sugiura, winner of the 2017-2018 Asian Pacific American Librarian Association Award

    “Many of my students are from other countries. How inspiring for them to see how you can have a positive impact on an adopted country!”

    — Leslie Ann Hynes, elementary school librarian

bottom of page