Today’s Perfect Picture Book is another library find, and like Undocumented: A Worker’s Fight that I reviewed last week, written for a slightly older picture book reader.
Title: Her Right Foot
Written By: Dave Eggers
Illustrated By: Shawn Harris
Publisher/Date: Chronicle Books/2017
Suitable for Ages: 6-9 (and older)
Themes/Topics: immigration; famous landmarks; Statue of Liberty
You have likely heard of a place called France.
If you have heard of France, you may have heard of the French. They are the people who live in France.
You may have also heard of something called the Statue of Liberty.
Brief Synopsis: This is a detailed, but fun, non-fiction exploration of the Statue of Liberty, ultimately focused on one of its lesser-known traits, that embodies an important message about immigration and the character of the United States.
Links to Resources:
- See the many activities listed in the Classroom Guide;
- Watch the book trailer;
- Check out the “further reading” and “sources” sections to learn more;
- The Statue of Liberty is a National Monument. Visit the National Park Service website to learn about things to do and see there;
- Not able to visit? Check out the Statue of Liberty webcams and enjoy the harbor and skyline views.
Why I Like this Book:
Just as the Statue of Liberty, at 305 feet tall, is much larger than the “average” statue, so, too, at 104 pages and over 1,500 words, Her Right Foot is larger than the average picture book – even non-fiction picture books. But because of the longer page count filled, primarily, with engaging images, and because, I think, of Egger’s conversational tone, this book is a fast-paced read, that, I think, will draw kids into the story of the Statue of Liberty, her history and meaning.
I especially enjoyed how Eggers often stated that “you” may know, or have known, or probably know facts about the Statue of Liberty. Even though I didn’t know some (true confession: many) of these facts, I felt as if I did. By the point that Eggers got to the facts that gave title to the book, the statue’s “right foot”, I felt like a true insider, as anxious to discover what I didn’t know as a kid tearing open a present. That this small facet, this moving foot, is the key to the meaning of the Statue of Liberty, that she is moving forward to welcome immigrants, the “tired and poor” arriving at our shores, is an important lesson that children, I think, will “get” from this book. As Eggers writes,
After all, the Statue of Liberty is an immigrant, too. And this is why she’s moving. This is why she’s striding.
That the “big reveal” occurs in a two-page wordless spread shows how Her Right Foot is a true marriage of text and illustrations. I was especially happy to see that a young, dark-skinned boy is the one who points to Lady Liberty’s heel, raised, in mid-stride, off of the pedestal. I also loved how Harris’ construction paper and India ink illustrations include many details, including one scene that features a surprised-looking pup staring at the moving Statue (I can only imagine my two pups barking in that situation. I’ll be on the lookout, as we regularly walk in a park only a few miles upriver from Liberty Island!).
A Note about Craft:
Eggers employs many techniques that make Her Right Foot a fun and informative non-fiction read. He begins by addressing the reader, using second-person point-of-view: “You…” I think this draws the reader immediately into the story. At least this reader felt a part of the action.
Like another wonderful storyteller, Arlo Guthrie – who spent almost an entire song about the Vietnam War and the draft (Alice’s Restaurant), focused on a Thanksgiving feast and a trial about littering – Eggers starts not with Lady Liberty’s foot, but in France, the country of her origin. Eggers thus shows us from the outset that she is an immigrant, too. From there, he explores her history and various features, until finally focusing on one small detail to find meaning for the whole.
And how did Eggers discover that detail? As he revealed in an NPR interview, he was with his family visiting Liberty Island and, in his words,
I never had noticed until we were up close that she’s in mid-stride, and that she seems to be walking and walking with great purpose out to the sea. And I thought, ‘Well, that’s gotta mean something.’
Writers take note: A family outing to a new place may spur a story idea for you, too, especially if you pay attention to small details!
Finally, I think the humor in Her Right Foot is what will keep kids reading, and thinking about, not just the Statue of Liberty, but about how we welcome immigrants and what it means to be American.
Learn more about Dave Eggers, his publications and philanthropic pursuits on his website. See a July 2016 Guardian newspaper article by Eggers about why the Statue of Liberty’s welcome “must not end.”
Visit Shawn Harris’ website to see more of his art. Her Right Foot is his debut picture book.
This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!