With her majestic pose, upraised torch and steady gaze over New York's harbor, the Statue of Liberty is the supreme queen of American freedom. You might even say she's one of the most inspirational women in the world.
In Lady Liberty: A Biography, author Doreen Rappaport continues her pursuit of wonderful iconic portrayals that includes Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Here, Rappaport pays tribute to the great copper lady by offering a series of poetic vignettes depicting the people who contributed to her creation and legacy. This fresh and refined life story of Lady Liberty—a wonderful complement to textbook histories—is further enriched by the strikingly handsome illustrations of Matt Tavares.
Rappaport begins on a personal note, in present-day New York City, by imagining her own grandfather's experience as a Latvian immigrant. She then travels back to a French parlor on a summer evening in 1865 when law professor Edoaurd de Laboulaye declares, "Soon America will be one hundred years old. I share my dream of a birthday gift." Readers enter the studio of sculptor Auguste Bartholdi before structural engineer Gustave Eiffel arrives on the scene and hundreds of people gather on the streets of Paris to bear witness to the immense statue's construction. Inspired by the news of the Lady's pending arrival, poet Emma Lazarus pens the words that will be inscribed on its pedestal: "Give me your tired, your poor. Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free." Soon, publisher Joseph Pulitzer calls on citizens to contribute to the costs of building the statue's base and, in New Jersey, young Florence De Foreest is moved to donate her pet roosters to Pulitzer's cause. When the Statue of Liberty is installed and unveiled on Bedloe's Island in 1886, she's met with thrilling patriotic fanfare.
Each episode in Lady Liberty: A Biography is imbued with intimacy and painterly precision. The combination of Rappaport's distinctive storytelling skills and Tavares' evocative watercolor-and ink-illustrated spreads will engage readers of all ages, while serving as a reminder that immigration is an issue relevant to every American.
Ellen Trachtenberg, who has made it all the way to the top of the Statue of Liberty, is the author of A Parent's Guide to the Best Children's Literature.