Perfect Picture Book Friday – Liberty Arrives! How America’s Grandest Statue Found her Home

For many of us celebrating Thanksgiving with family and friends this week, we are grateful for the gifts of freedom and liberty. But how did one statue come to define liberty for an entire nation? Find out in this Perfect Picture Book.

Title: Liberty Arrives! How America’s Grandest Statue Found her Home

Written & Illustrated By: Robert Byrd

Publisher/Date: Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Random House/2019

Suitable for Ages: 6-9

Themes/Topics: history, statue of liberty

Opening:

The Statue of Liberty rises tall and regal in New York Harbor. A powerful symbol of freedom, she has greeted millions of immigrants seeking a new life in America. Her solemn presence three for more than 130 years has been a constant reminder of the principles and promises in the Constitution of the United States. But the statue, Lady Liberty herself, had a long and uncertain trip to where she stands.

Brief Synopsis: The story of the creation and donation of the Statue of Liberty and the difficulties encountered.

Links to Resources:

  • The Statue of Liberty is a National Monument. Visit the National Park Service website to learn more 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;
  • Write your own newspaper article about Lady Liberty or some other important public statue or place.

Why I Like this Book:

Arranged in a series of newspaper-like, headlined articles with accompanying illustrations, Liberty Arrives! recounts the journey of Lady Liberty from an idea in France to its reality, many years later, in New York Harbor.

I love how Byrd identifies the obstacles overcome and builds tension throughout the story by breaking this story up into small portions. Although in the 21st century, we know where and when Lady Liberty arrived in the US, Byrd keeps readers interested in how the process unfolded by taking us back to day one and, essentially, walking us, step by step, through the creation and funding of this iconic symbol through a series of articles.

With more text than most picture books and with illuminating back matter (Measuring the Statue; Timeline; More on the Story of the Statue; Author’s Note; and Bibliography), Liberty Arrives! will be a wonderful addition to school and classroom libraries, as well as a fascinating read for those interested in history, art and engineering.

A Note about Craft:

As I noted above, we know the result of the quest to create Lady Liberty before we open this picture book. So how does Byrd create tension and keep our interest in the story?

I think by showing the process in a series of unfolding newspaper articles he keeps our attention, helps place the reader in the era, and, not inconsequentially, shows how the media of the day, ie, the newspapers, played a role in garnering public support for the project. And while the focus understandably is on the statue’s creator, Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi, recounting the story in this way enables Byrd to also introduce and explain the contributions of Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel, best known for the structure that bears his name but also the brains behind Lady Liberty’s iron skeleton, Joseph Pulitzer, an immigrant and newspaper publisher whose media campaign was instrumental to garner public support and donations for the statue base, and Emma Lazurus, an American poet whose words grace the statue’s pedestal.

As Byrd notes towards the end of the text, the people’s support amounted to “America’s first ‘crowdfunding’ campaign”, a notion that, I believe, will resonate with young readers. Byrd further notes, “Just as the Internet connects us today, the World newspaper brought people together then to contribute to Lady Liberty’s cause.” In addition to recounting Lady Liberty’s journey, then, Byrd provides an example of media’s support for a public good.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

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