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Lady Liberty: A Biography
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Lady Liberty: A Biography

4.0 4
by Doreen Rappaport, Matt Tavares (Illustrator)

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A powerfully moving, authentic portrait of the Statue of Liberty, told through the eyes of those who created her and illustrated in glorious detail.

"Soon America will be one hundred years old. I share my dream of a birthday gift."

It begins in 1865 as a romantic idea, but ten years later Édouard Laboulaye’s dream catches fire and takes


A powerfully moving, authentic portrait of the Statue of Liberty, told through the eyes of those who created her and illustrated in glorious detail.

"Soon America will be one hundred years old. I share my dream of a birthday gift."

It begins in 1865 as a romantic idea, but ten years later Édouard Laboulaye’s dream catches fire and takes shape. Sculptor Auguste Bartholdi gives the dream the form of a lady, holding a torch to "enlighten the world." Engineers, plasterers, carpenters, coppersmiths — many of them immigrants — work together to turn the lady into a monument over 100 feet tall. Joseph Pulitzer calls on readers to help fund a pedestal, and hundreds send in nickels, dimes, and even roosters for the cause. Doreen Rappaport’s historically accurate, poetic vignettes and Matt Tavares’s magnificent images remind us of the true origins of a national symbol — and show that it took a lot of people to make the Lady.

Editorial Reviews

Mary Quattlebaum
[The] multi-narrator approach reveals the scope of the project, on both sides of the Atlantic, and helps young readers understand the statue's power as a national and international symbol. Matt Tavares's striking illustrations, rendered in watercolor, ink and pencil, give a sense of solidity and heft in keeping with the monumental subject matter.
—The Washington Post
James McMullan
Rappaport uses a literary device that gives the writing a satisfying emotional immediacy: after an introduction about her immigrant grandfather, she tells the story of the statue's conception and construction entirely through the imagined voices of the principal actors…It is historical teaching in a smoothly disguised form that should appeal to the curious 7- or 8-year-old, who would be the ideal reader for this book…In Matt Tavares, Rappaport has been matched with a wonderfully sympathetic illustrator. Where she gives the reader a first-person description of Lady Liberty's making, Tavares creates images with a pageantlike grandeur. He achieves this by arranging the figures in classically simple compositions and through his use of light.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

Tracing the Statue of Liberty's path to completion, Rappaport (Nobody Gonna to Turn Me 'Round) lets those responsible for its creation tell the story of the project that spanned 20 years and two continents. Based on primary sources, their often lyrical, present-tense musings surge with the emotions behind the American symbol. "I listen to the people talk as they watch/ her skin being riveted onto her skeleton./ She inspires them. She inspires me," structural engineer Gustave Eiffel declares. Jumping from one historical figure to the next (for example, from Eiffel to poet Emma Lazarus) is both energizing and discomfiting, as readers must settle into a new voice with each spread. Tavares's (Iron Hans) realistic illustrations are at their best in the sweeping, angled perspectives of the construction and easily justify the book's large trim size. The full-bleed spreads culminate in a vertical gatefold of the copper icon sans weathered patina, instantly whisking readers to the triumphant moment of Liberty's unveiling in 1886. Ages 5-9. (May)

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Children's Literature - Jean Boreen
This beautiful narrative in poems of the history of the Statue of Liberty and of those who created her or were impacted by her begins with the author sharing the story of her grandfather coming to America in the 1880s and wondering if "my grandfather even thought about how she came to be." The author then goes on to introduce us to the men, women, and children who helped to make the idea of the Statue of Liberty a reality. Told in verse, the author first focuses her poetry on statements delivered on "behalf " of the French contingent: Edouard De Laboulaye, the man who came up with the idea of the Lady Liberty; August Bartholdi, Liberty's sculptor; Marie Simon, Bartholdi's assistant; and Gustave Eiffel, the statue's structural engineer. Then her focus switches to the Americans working to bring the statue to the United States: Emma Lazarus, who wrote the famous poem beginning with the lines, "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses longing to be free,"; Joseph Pulitzer, the publisher of the New York World who asked his readers to raise funds for the pedestal on which Liberty would stand; the various American citizens who provided that money; and the effort to help pay for and build the foundation on which the statue would survey New York Harbor. The color illustrations for this book are detailed and provide an accurate look at the various personages and places noted in the poems. The author also provides a time line as well as additional books that may be of interest to students after they have read this book. This book is a must read book for those interested in the history of the Statue of Liberty. Reviewer: Jean Boreen, Ph.D.
School Library Journal

Gr 3-8- This handsome, thoroughly researched picture book tells the story of the statue from conception to dedication from the points of view of the many different players in Liberty's dramatic life. Beginning with the author imagining how her Latvian grandfather felt when he first spied "her," the presentation ends with several quotes from other European immigrants, describing their thoughts as "The Lady" welcomed them to America. The book's unique structure enables Rappaport to pack a wealth of background and detail into the text in an interesting, engaging way. Each spread features a one-and-a-half-page illustration, rendered in watercolor, ink, and pencil, accompanied by a framed narrative poem. Children meet Édouard de Laboulaye, the French law professor who conceived of the statue, and sculptor Auguste Bartholdi, with whom he collaborated. Assistant Marie Simon outlines the intensive mathematical process of turning the original four-foot clay model into the copper "Colossus" she would become. Other voices include Charles P. Stone, a construction supervisor on Bedloe's Island, and Joseph Pulitzer, whose moving editorials inspired 100,000 Americans to donate money when Congress and the Mayor of New York would not. Tavares's evocative paintings bring each perspective to life, from images of an immigrant's outstretched arms to the countless workers measuring, building, and digging. A beautiful, innovative volume.-Barbara Auerbach, New York City Public Schools

Kirkus Reviews
"She will be massive but elegant, / as grand as any one of the / Seven Wonders of the Ancient World." Tributes to the Statue of Liberty abound, but this one stands out for its unusual approach and powerful illustrations. Rappaport traces the statue's history in a series of stately free-verse poems in the voices of those who became involved in its creation: from Edouard de Laboulaye, who first proposed it, and sculptor Auguste Bartholdi, his assistant, to young Florence De Foreest, who sent her two pet roosters to help pay for the base; and Jose Mart', Cuban exile and journalist. Generally viewed from low angles, all of the solid, serious human figures in Tavares's three-quarter-spread paintings bulk larger than life-and lead up to a spectacular climactic foldout view of the monument towering into cloudy skies on the rainy day of her unveiling. Closing with heartfelt comments from several immigrants or their children, this adds up to a stirring reminder of what Lady Liberty stands for. (author's and illustrator's notes, statistics, timeline, sources) (Poetry. 9-11, adult)

Product Details

Candlewick Press
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
8.81(w) x 10.63(h) x 0.21(d)
AD760L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

Doreen Rappaport has written many books for young readers, including an acclaimed trilogy about the African-American experience: NO MORE!, FREE AT LAST!, and NOBODY GONNA TURN ME 'ROUND, all illustrated by Shane W. Evans. She is also the author of MARTIN'S BIG WORDS: THE LIFE OF DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., illustrated by Bryan Collier. She lives in Copake Falls, New York.

Matt Tavares is the illustrator of IRON HANS: A GRIMMS' FAIRY TALE, retold by Stephen Mitchell; JACK AND THE BEANSTALK, retold by E. Nesbit; and 'TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS. He has also written and illustrated three books inspired by baseball: MUDBALL, OLIVER'S GAME, and ZACHARY'S BALL. Matt Tavares lives in Ogunquit, Maine.

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Lady Liberty 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a book for all ages. While everyone knows about the Statue of Liberty, few know the story of how she came to be. It is simply and well written; full of interesting facts about Lady Liberty and the people who conceived and executed her. In today's climate, it is a powerful reminder that America is a land of immigrants, old and new, who yearned to be free and to have the opportunity to build a good life for themselves and their families
A-Libearian More than 1 year ago
It was fun to read about this subject. The pictures are wonderful! The text is just right for children. I learned a lot from this book, too! It is easy to understand and brings to light many under-reported facts for readers. No wonder it was nominated for the 2009-10 Texas Bluebonnet book award!