Lady Liberty On the Move: HER RIGHT FOOT

Lynn: Every now and then, a book comes along that makes us want to cheer and wave wildly. Picture us doing that right now for Her Right Foot (2017), by Dave Eggers. Full of fascinating facts about the iconic Statue of Liberty, it tells us the statue turned green around 1920, and that it was shipped to the U. S. from France in 214 boxes. Did you know that the statue was first assembled in France and stood over Paris for about a year? That once, a group of writers ate lunch in the space just below her  knee? “This is true,” Eggers assures us. “This is a factual book.”

Conversational, leisurely, and fun, Eggers’ text expresses what lies at the heart of this country and this beautiful symbol: freedom, and a welcome to all who seek it. He accomplishes this by pointing out a fascinating fact and one I certainly never noticed: Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi designed Lady Liberty with her right heel up. She is walking; she is on the move. “Is she going to SoHo to get a panini?” asks Eggers. “Could she be going to Trenton?”

Eggers reminds us of an important point:

Liberty and freedom from oppression are not things you get or grant by standing around like some kind of statue. No! These are things that require action. Courage. An unwillingness to rest.

With immigration a political hot topic, this heartfelt book couldn’t have come at a better time. Eggers’ simple sentence structure, humor, and assortment of interesting facts are perfectly tuned to young readers. The central thesis, however, speaks to readers of all ages.

Cindy: With all the art materials being used in children’s books today, including digital art, it is somewhat comforting to see the use of construction paper for the collage work created by first-time illustrator Shawn Harris. Young children might be encouraged to try making their own statues from this familiar classroom staple. The green is the perfect shade for Lady Liberty (although you know it was brown for 35 years until the copper oxidized, right?).

Scenes of workers climbing over various body parts during construction help show the scale of the statue. While you wait to get to a library or bookstore to get your hands on Her Right Foot, check out the book trailer, which gives a good idea of Harris’s artwork. I’ve not seen the statue up close—just from a plane, a boat, or across the harbor in Battery Park. Next time I head to New York, I’ll need to get out to Liberty Island to take a close look at that right foot! This is a welcome and welcoming addition to Lady Liberty lore.

Speaking of children creating their own art inspired by this book, children ages 12 and under can enter the #HerRightFoot Children’s Illustration Project (click here for details) for a chance to win a signed copy and a handwritten note from author Dave Eggers. The deadline is December 31, 2017. Get moving!

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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