Saturday, May 1, 2010

Non-Fiction: Awesome

Lady Liberty: A Biography, by Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by Matt Tavares--The history of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor is told in ten distinct voices, from the French law professor who dreamed of giving a gift to the American people to the sculptor who created the gift; from the American newspaper man instrumental in funding the gift's construction to the workers who built it. The dream was so long in being fulfilled and took the vision and labor of so many to be realized, it is amazing the Statue of Liberty was ever completed. The French law professor was Edouard-Rene Lefebvre de Laboulaye, and in the summer of 1865 he first voiced his desire to gift a monument to the United States to celebrate their Centenniel. Auguste Bartholdi was the sculptor who heard Laboulaye's idea. Bartholdi was immediately captivated by the idea and worked for ten years to create a design while France waited for the rule of Napoleon III to end and for the opportunity to begin raising funds to finance the project. The Statue would not be completed and dedicated until 1886, more than twenty years after Laboulaye and Bartholdi began their quest. Laboulaye died in 1883, and so did not live to see his dream realized.

All of this, and the story of the construction, are compressed into a scant fifteen or so pages of text. The formatting is almost poetic, and the vocabulary appropriate for elementary and middle-school children alike. The illustrations are soft and clear, showing the dream of each individual associated with the production of the Statue of Liberty. I am not ashamed to admit I got teary more than once as I read Lady Liberty.

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