Tag Archives: Statue of Liberty

Perfect Pairing of Dual-Story Picture Books

Very few picture books involve two separate stories that meet at some point in the book. Interestingly, I discovered two recently that use this structure, so I couldn’t help but pair them.

 

The Diamond and the Boy: The Creation of Diamonds & The Life of H. Tracy Hall

Author: Hannah Holt

Illustrator: Jay Fleck

Publisher/Date: Balzer + Bray (an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers)/2018

Ages: 4-8

Themes: diamonds; engineering; STEM; innovation; biography

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Told in a unique dual-narrative format, The Diamond and the Boy follows the stories of both natural diamond creation and the life of H. Tracy Hall, the inventor of a revolutionary diamond-making machine. Perfect for fans of Rosie Revere, Engineer, and On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein.

Before a diamond is a gem, it’s a common gray rock called graphite. Through an intense trial of heat and pressure, it changes into one of the most valuable stones in the world.

Before Tracy Hall was an inventor, he was a boy—born into poverty, bullied by peers, forced to work at an early age. However, through education and experimentation, he became one of the brightest innovators of the twentieth century, eventually building a revolutionary machine that makes diamonds.

From debut author Hannah Holt—the granddaughter of Tracy Hall—and illustrator Jay Fleck comes this fascinating in-depth portrait of both rock and man.

Read a review at Picture Books Help Kids Soar and an interview with Holt at The Picture Book Buzz.

 

Naming Liberty

Author: Jane Yolen

Illustrator: Jim Burke

Publisher/Date: Philomel Books/2008

Ages: 6-9

Themes: immigration; Statue of Liberty; freedom

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

A double celebration for Independence Day! In this wonderfully unique book, Jane Yolen and Jim Burke weave two stories at once, as readers see young Gitl in Russia leaving her home for faraway America, wondering what new name she will choose for herself when she arrives, and young artist Frederic Auguste Bartholdi dreaming of a monument he wants to build to honor freedom. It is an arduous journey for Gitl as she and her family travel across land and sea to arrive on this shore, but when she sees the magnificent Statue of Liberty standing in New York Harbor, she knows her name in this great new country must be ?Liberty.

Just in time for Independence Day, Jim Burke’s magnificent paintings capture Yolen’s inspired tale of a girl and an artist and their passionate belief in freedom.

Read a review at Kids Bookshelf.

I paired these books because of their parallel structures.

In The Diamond and the Boy, Holt tells the story of the creation of a natural diamond, from graphite to sparkling gem on the left side of each spread. On the right side, she shares the biography of her grandfather, the scientist and inventor, Tracy Hall, who rose from an impoverished childhood to discover a process of creating man-made industrial diamonds. I love how Holt uses similar adjectives to describe the graphite’s journey to become a diamond and Hall’s life. I also appreciate the terrific backmatter about diamonds and Hall.

In Naming Liberty, Yolen uses the left side of each spread to tell the fictional story of young Gitl and her family as they embark on a journey from a small Russian village to New York City, where they are greeted by the Statue of Liberty. On the right side, Yolen tells the story of Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi and the creation of the Statue of Liberty. In an Author’s Note, Yolen explains that Gitl’s story is based on that of Yolen’s family as well as the immigration stories of other Eastern European Jewish immigrants. She also provides further information about the Statue of Liberty and its creator.

Although The Diamond and the Boy is pure non-fiction and Naming Liberty is only partially true, I think it’s illuminating how telling two stories side-by-side creates a picture book that is more than the sum of its parts.

PPBF – Her Right Foot

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.

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Image reproduced from wbur.org 

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

Opening:

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:

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!).

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Interior spread from Her Right Foot

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!