Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Building Liberty: A Statue is Born

Building Liberty: A Statue is Born

Serge Hochain
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 7 to 10
National Geographic Children's Books, 1997   ISBN: 978-0792267652

Over the years hundreds of thousands of people have admired the Statue of Liberty. For countless people the statue has represented freedom, and for many Americans it is a something to be very proud of. Long before it took its place on a small island in New York Harbour, the Statue of Liberty was a project that hundreds of people worked on. It needed to be built from the ground up before it could be given to the United States as a gift. This is the story of four young people who did their part to turn a dream into a reality.

We begin with Leo who is thrilled when his father Angelo gets him an apprenticeship with Simon. Simon is Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi's assistant, and it is his job to make sure that work on the Bartholdi's great work, the Statue of Liberty, proceeds smoothly. As soon as he arrives at the work site Leo is put to work fetching and carrying. Leo is lucky enough to meet both Bartholdi and Gustave Eiffel, the man who is going to build a strong "skeleton" for the huge statue. Leo learns a lot, and he is proud of his contribution to the "wonderful gift" that France is giving to America.

Next we meet Fanch Penhoet who is a young man who is in the French navy. He is taking his first trip aboard the Iser, the ship that is going to take the Statue of Liberty to her new home. In his log Fanch describes the journey across the Atlantic and what it was like to see New York City. He takes pride in the fact that he did his part "carrying Liberty" to the place where she will stand for years to come.

In this beautifully illustrated and very moving picture book the author goes on to tell the story of a young African American newsboy, and that of an ironworker. Both young people work to help ensure that Lady Liberty ends up on Liberty Island where she belongs.

Readers will be fascinated to hear the stories of these four young people who helped to build, to carry, to raise money for, and to assemble the famous and majestic Statue of Liberty. Beautifully detailed illustrations compliment the simple, evocative, and very personal text. Young people will not only see how the Statue of Liberty came to be built and brought to America, but they will also see what it was like to be a young person who had to work for a living in the late 1800's.

At the back of the book the author shows his readers how Liberty was built. This is the first book that Serge Hochain has had published in the United States. Hopefully it will not be the last.