Emma's Poem: The Voice of the Statue of Liberty

Overview

Give me your tired,  your poor
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free...

Who wrote these words?  And why?

 

In 1883, Emma Lazarus, deeply moved by an influx of immigrants from Eastern Europe, wrote a sonnet that was to give voice to the Statue of Liberty.  Originally a gift from France to celebrate our shared national struggles for liberty, the ...

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Emma's Poem: The Voice of the Statue of Liberty

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Overview

Give me your tired,  your poor
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free...

Who wrote these words?  And why?

 

In 1883, Emma Lazarus, deeply moved by an influx of immigrants from Eastern Europe, wrote a sonnet that was to give voice to the Statue of Liberty.  Originally a gift from France to celebrate our shared national struggles for liberty, the Statue, thanks to Emma's poem, slowly came to shape our hearts, defining us as a nation that welcomes and gives refuge to those who come to our shores.

A 2011 Sydney Taylor Honor Book for Younger Readers

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Emma Lazarus lived and wrote in New York City. She wrote the poem for which she is known when she was 34, in 1883, to help raise money for the building of a pedestal for the Statue of Liberty. In clear cadences, Glaser describes Lazarus's comfortable circumstances and her choice to assist the immigrants of her time not only with her writing but by helping them to learn English and get job training. It is because of her poem "The New Colossus" that the Statue of Liberty has become a symbol of welcome to immigrants: The engraved plaque with her stirring words was placed there after Emma's death. Nivola's watercolor-and-gouache paintings are rich in color and detail, showing the elegant streets and homes of 19th-century New York City as well as its settlement houses. Line, pattern and a sense of place give young readers a rich vision of the "golden door" by which "your tired, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free" came to this country. Nicely done, enabling even young children to see how the poem and the statue came together. (Picture book/biography. 5-8)
Publishers Weekly
Emma Lazarus (1849-1887) was a child of privilege. But her dedication to the impoverished refugees who shared her Jewish faith transcended the conventions of class and gender (“At that time in the 1880s people believed that a fine lady like Emma should not mingle with poor people”), and inspired her to create the poem found on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. Her now familiar words—“Give me your tired, your poor”—transformed it from its original intent, as a gift of friendship from France, into a symbol, a promise of hope and refuge for immigrants. Glaser's (Hoppy Hanukkah!) concise narration, reminiscent of blank verse, may feel a little chilly at first glance, but her authorial restraint actually helps readers make a more direct connection to the still-radical spirit behind the poem's ornate, distancing language. Nivola (Planting the Trees of Kenya), however, may be a little too close to Glaser's aesthetic to make this book wholly satisfying. The flattened perspectives and tidy delicacy of her watercolor and gouache paintings tend to dampen the story's emotional urgency. Ages 5-8. (Apr.)
From the Publisher
Jane Addams Children's Book Award 2011

Junior Library Guild Selection

"Nivola's rectilinear compositions and poses, her generalized figures, and her bright, limited palette recall Barbara Cooney's period scenes, capturing New York City's opulent upper crust and the indigent yet dignified newcomers with equal skill. An excellent introduction to both Lady Liberty and the poem."—Horn Book, starred review 

"The art and words are moving in this picture book, which pairs free verse with detailed, fullpage paintings in watercolor, ink, and gouache to tell the history behind Lazarus' famous inscription on the Statue of Liberty."—Booklist

"A gentle tribute to Emma Lazarus, very much in the style of Barbara Cooney’s Eleanor (Viking, 1996)...The pictures, with their slight folk-art feel, capture both the time and action of the story, while the text illuminates the woman. An author’s note and the full text of the poem complete the book. A worthwhile addition for most collections."—School Library Journal

"Nivola’s watercolor-and-gouache paintings are rich in color and detail, showing the elegant streets and homes of 19th-century New York City as well as its settlement houses. Line, pattern and a sense of place give young readers a rich vision of the "golden door" by which "your tired, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free" came to this country. Nicely done, enabling even young children to see how the poem and the statue came together."—Kirkus

Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Although she grew up in a wealthy, loving family, lacking nothing, when Emma Lazarus met poor immigrants in New York Harbor she determined to help them. Many New Yorkers did not want these ragged people in their city, but Emma, already a well-known writer, tried to call attention to their plight in her newspaper articles and poems. In the 1880's, when France was building a huge statue as a gift for the United States to be built in New York Harbor, money was needed for a pedestal. Writers like Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, and others like Emma were asked to write something to raise funds. Thinking of the immigrants and how the statue might greet them, Emma wrote the inspirational welcoming words now engraved on a plaque at the entrance to the pedestal. Nivola's stylized but naturalistic illustrations in watercolors and gouache depict the people of the period in appropriate dress and settings, from the Lazarus family and their fashionable home to the immigrants in their life struggles. A couple of scenes depict the statue being constructed and finished. On the front of the cover, a group of immigrants peers over at the distant statue, while on the back an immigrant family walks past Emma's house as she writes upstairs. The end papers reproduce her sonnet as she wrote it. A note adds information about her. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
Gr 1–4—The Statue of Liberty stands in New York Harbor, but what does she stand for? She is the "Mother of Immigrants," welcoming new arrivals to our shores with a promise of liberty and opportunity. In her book (Houghton Mifflin, 2010), Linda Glaser aptly makes the argument that it was the heart and voice of Emma Lazarus that endowed the statue with her treasured meaning. Glaser introduces Lazarus, pointing out the privileged background the poet enjoyed and the harsh contrast she saw between her own life and the lives of new immigrants. Lazarus worked with immigrants and tried to change public sentiment that labeled them as a drain on society. When prominent writers were urged to create works to help raise funds for the statue's pedestal, Lazarus wrote "The New Colossus." Her sonnet was read at the statue's dedication, and in 1912 a bronze plaque with the poem was added to the pedestal. Since then, it has been memorized, recited, sung, and pondered by new generations. Glaser's evocative, interesting text is read with feeling by Frances Sternhagen, with original background music by Bruce Zimmerman. Claire A. Nivola's beautiful paintings are scanned, allowing viewers to focus on the details that might otherwise be missed. Historical photographs are also shown. These immigrants stare at the camera with eyes that haunt viewers with their untold stories. The DVD begins with a short introduction by the author describing her own immigrant ancestors and the reason she chose to write the book. A children's chorus singing "Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor" is heart-catching. This evocative presentation about an important symbol of American freedom is a must-have.—Teresa Bateman, Brigadoon Elementary, Federal Way, WA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780544105089
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 9/10/2013
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 607,284
  • Product dimensions: 7.50 (w) x 10.70 (h) x 0.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Linda Glaser's grandparents emigrated from eastern Europe in the late 1800's to New York City, where they first saw the huge statue.
Claire Nivola's parents and grandparents arrived by ship in New York harbor in 1939, passing under the gaze of the Statue of Liberty, as part of the great European flight from anti-Semitism and Fascism.

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