The Picture Book Buzz

Let Liberty Rise! - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

So, I bet you know that the Statute of Liberty is in the New York Harbor and was created for the United States by France. But did you know that she is standing because children collected and sent in their pennies? That she was one of the first crowd-funding projects?


Today's, #PPBF choice is a wonderful nonfiction picture book that shares the story of how children and ordinary Americans helped raise the money to give the Statute of Liberty a pedestal, and a home.


Let Liberty Rise!: How America's Schoolchildren Helped Save the Statute of Liberty


Author: Chana Stiefel


Illustrator: Chuck Groenink


Publisher: Scholastic


Ages: 6-8


Nonfiction


Themes:

Citizen involvement, 'crowd sourcing,' history, and saving the Statute of Liberty.


Synopsis:

On America's 100th birthday, the people of France built a giant gift! It was one of the largest statues the world had ever seen -- and she weighed as much as 40 elephants! And when she arrived on our shores in 250 pieces, she needed a pedestal to hold her up. Few of America's millionaires were willing to foot the bill.


Then, Joseph Pulitzer (a poor Hungarian immigrant-cum-newspaper mogul) appealed to his fellow citizens. He invited them to contribute whatever they could, no matter how small an amount, to raise funds to mount this statue. The next day, pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters poured in. Soon, Pulitzer's campaign raised enough money to construct the pedestal. And with the help of everyday Americans (including many thousands of schoolchildren!) the Statue of Liberty rose skyward, torch ablaze, to welcome new immigrants for a life of freedom and opportunity!


Opening Lines:

It was America's 100th Birthday!


The people of France were building

a giant gift for their friends in

United States.


What I Loved about this book:

When the Statute of Liberty initially arrived in New York in 1885, the platform on which she was to stand was only half finished. Money had run out and no one wanted to help fund the construction. So, packed into 214 crates the statute sat in pieces on Bedloe's Island.


Using fun language, relatable analogies (for instance, "the statute weighed nearly as much as 40 elephants"), and a conversion to current currency rates, Chana Stiefel deftly grounds the reader within the period and controversy of whether Lady Liberty would ever rise. Whether America would ever raise $100,000 ($2.6 million now) to finish the platform. Chuck Groenink's gorgeous illustrations capture the atmosphere (with a sprinkling of speech bubbles), the textures, clothing, and the technology of the time. I love his newsies.

Text © Chana Stiefel, 2021. Image © Chuck Groenink, 2021.


Joseph Pulitzer felt this was wrong. He urged the country to pitch in. He promised to list the names, in his paper - the New York World, of every person who contributed to the pedestal fund, "no matter how small the sum - or how small the person." Children across the country sent in pennies, nickels, and dollars. Money they earned in jobs or by knitting and selling socks. Money they'd been saving for candy or to see the circus. They formed clubs and donated as entire classes. I love Groenink's shift to spot illustrations, the letters peeking out of envelopes, and Stiefel's inclusion of quotations from the children.

Text © Chana Stiefel, 2021. Image © Chuck Groenink, 2021.


"I wish I could make it 60,000, she wrote,

but drops make an ocean."


With an amazing grass-roots, crowd-funding strategy, Pulitzer motivated everyday citizens and American school children to raise $100,00o so the Statute of Liberty could rise. I really enjoyed how Stiefel interwove the idea of raising the statute from the title to the actual construction. How a sad lament ("would never rise") morphed into the creation of hope ("raised more than $2,000"). And then again during the actual construction, where she plays with the phrase - "piece by piece she started to rise...up, up rose the statute."


The climax is a not-to-be missed "book-shifting" vertical spread! It is amazing. After the climax, Stiefel brings the story back to the children. New immigrants entering the New York harbor, are able to gaze at the Statute and the hope she embodies, all because of "children just like you." Perhaps Stiefel's own call to action. All of us, pitching in to together - to raise money, repair areas after disasters, or provide relief - no matter the amount, can make a big difference.


The backmatter offers a two-page timeline, additional facts about the Statute of Liberty, bibliography, and extended readings. As well as a spectacular "Look Back In Time," full of vintage photographs. This is a great nonfiction history book which encourages citizen involvement by all of us. One that empowers kids to act,


Resources:

- make your own Statute if Liberty crown and torch (https://buggyandbuddy.com/crafts-for-kids-make-a-statue-of-liberty-crown-and-torch/).


- if you had a dollar, just for contributing, where would you send it?


-Chuck Groenink likes to think about "all the pedestal designs that didn’t make it and would love to see kids design their own!" (https://leslielindsay.com/2021/03/08/let-liberty-rise/) What would your pedestal under the statute look like?


- check out Chana's amazing curriculum guide for some other fun activities, challenges, and experiments (https://chanastiefel.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Curriculum-guide-3.pdf).


If you missed it, be sure to check out Monday's joint interview with Chana Stiefel (here).


This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.

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