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Lady Liberty: A Biography

The Story of the Statue of Liberty

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Cover art Lady Liberty: A Biography a children's picture book biography of the Statue of Liberty

Lady Liberty: A Biography by Doreen Rappaport, Illustrated by Matt Tavares

Candlewick Press
I grew up in northern New Jersey and toured the Statue of Liberty as a very young child. It was an unforgettable experience. I remember all of the questions I had as a child about the Statue of Liberty, many of which were not fully answered until I read Doreen Rappaport’s Lady Liberty: A Biography. The book covers the history of the Statue of Liberty, from the initial idea to the grand celebration upon its completion.

Lady Liberty: The Format

The book, in picture book format, emphasizes the drama, and some of the controversy, involved in the building of the Statue of Liberty, the many people connected to its development, and those impacted by it. At the beginning of the book, author Doreen Rappaport imagines how her immigrant grandfather might have felt upon first viewing the Statue of Liberty. Thereafter, each double-page spread featuring a large and dramatic watercolor, ink, and pencil illustration by Matt Tavares is accompanied by a column of text that expands upon what is shown in the artwork and presents a first-person viewpoint from one of those involved in the project.

Beginning with Edouard de Laboulaye’s dream of a gift from France for the 100th birthday of the United States, the story continues with the first-person accounts of the sculptor, others involved in the design and construction, poet Emma Lazarus, publisher Joseph Pulitzer, a young donor, and a journalist. The writing and the artwork work together to create a dramatic and fascinating account of the building of the Statue of Liberty. The biography ends with a description of the huge celebration that accompanied the October 28, 1886 unveiling of the Statue of Liberty. The foldout page of the completed Statue of Liberty adds greatly to the story’s dramatic impact.

Lady Liberty: The Extras

While the biography is excellent all by itself, what makes the book really exceptional are the extra six pages at the end of the book that provide additional information about the Statue of Liberty. They include additional artwork, quotations from immigrants from Norway, Turkey, Italy, and Germany about their feelings upon seeing the Statue of Liberty, an entire page of dimensions, including the statue’s height, weight, the height of the pedestal, the length of the torch, and the length of the index finger (8 feet!). There is an 1865-1986 timeline of important events in the history of the Statue of Liberty. Notes from the author and illustrator provide their personal perspectives and more interesting information. For those wanting to learn more, there is a page of selected sources, recommended children’s books, and a link to the official website of the Statue of Liberty.

Lady Liberty: The Author and the Illustrator

Doreen Rappaport is well-known for her award-winning works of nonfiction and historical fiction for children. Her books include No More! Stories and Songs of Slave Resistance, Freedom River, Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., John's Secret Dreams: The Life of John Lennon, Victory or Death! Stories of the American Revolution, Free at Last! Stories and Songs of Emancipation, and The Secret Seder.

Matt Tavares has both illustrated, and written and illustrated, a number of children’s picture books, including ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, Iron Hans: A Grimms' Fairy Tale, and Jack and the Beanstalk. Tavares also wrote and illustrated three children’s picture books with a baseball theme: Mudball, Zachary’s Ball, and Oliver’s Game. Exhibitions of the award-winning artist’s illustrations have been shown at the Museum of American Illustration, Society of Illustrators, and at Brandywine River Museum.

Lady Liberty: My Recommendation

I recommend Lady Liberty: A Biography for children eight and older, younger if they have visited the Statue of Liberty. Because of the dramatically told story and the large amount of fascinating information in the book, I would also highly recommend Lady Liberty for teens and adults. (Candlewick Press, 2008. ISBN: 9780763625306)

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