Saturday, October 11, 2008

Naming Liberty

I don’t often review picture books, mostly because we read the same old standbys over and over, the ones most parents already know or have seen on a book list like Honey for a Child's Heart.

But we’ve been exploring our new library here in Kenosha, and we've found a keeper, just published in 2008, that probably isn’t as widely known. It’s Naming Liberty, by Jane Yolen, a consistently good children’s author.

Naming Liberty is really two tales told side by side. On the left side of each open-book spread, the fictionalized story of an immigrant family’s journey to America is told; on the right, the saga of a dream that became the Statue of Liberty unfolds. Either story told alone would be good—but putting the two tales together creates a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.

As a homeschooler, I appreciated the large amount of factual information that was presented in such an appealing format. The immigrant’s story was a composite of the author’s families’ stories and began not on the ship, as so many immigration stories do, but with the reasons why they decided to immigrate, the two years of preparation while the oldest son was sent on ahead, and how he acclimated and prepared for the family to follow.

The Statue's story was told from the point of view of the sculptor, and my boys were fascinated by the enormity of its creation process! They had so many questions about it afterwards that I couldn't answer, so after reading on the last page ("What is true about this book") that another sculpture was considered his masterpiece, we got online to look up some answers and get a look at his other work. Then we looked up the world's tallest buildings and how they compare, found photos of the interior of the Statue of Liberty, learned that you can no longer go up into the crown since 9/11, which led us to YouTube footage of the attacks on the World Trade Center and a Wikipedia article that attempted to answer the boys’ question: Why?

It's amazing how a picture book can jump-start learning!

The illustrations are beautiful, too, sort of a stylized realism in warm, realistic colors. Some of the images are quite memorable, especially one of the Statue’s giant head being transported down a city street!

And did you know that the face is modeled after the sculptor's own mother? Or that the engineer who designed the Statue's interior structure was Monsieur Eiffel, of Eiffel Tower fame?

We learned so much, so enjoyably, from this wonderful picture book.

For more reviews, see Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books.


Amy @ Experience Imagination said...

Wow. I didn't realize you couldn't go into the crown anymore. What a shame. I remember being so excited going up and up and up the twisty staircase, then peering through these tiny, smudged windows to get a glimpse of the water or the city. Even in all of my affected twelve-year-old insouciance, I though it was pretty amazing.

Kathyb1960 said...

WOW! What a GREAT History lesson! And I think it would be an interesting story just by itself on the family and what they did before coming over here.

Thanks for the interesting info!

Kathy in West Texas

Margaret Cloud said...

Isn't it great how books inspire us to learn more beyond there pages, I think you are doing a great job at homeschooling, and thanks for sharing.

MomCO3 said...

Thanks for this review! I'll look for it-- for my historiam and my engineer.

Jenny in Ca said...

sounds like a great book, thanks for sharing!