Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Naming Liberty

Naming Liberty

Jane Yolen
Illustrator:  Jim Burke 
Picture Book
For ages 6 to 9
Penguin, 2008   ISBN: 978-0399242502

Gitl and her family are sitting at the dinner table one day when Gitl's father announces that the family should leave Russia. They should go to a land where they do not have to fear for their lives and where they will be able to "find liberty." They should go to America. And so Papa sends Shmuel, one of Gitl's brothers, to America to "find a place in America" for them all. This Shmuel does, and after a long wait Gitl, her parents, and her two brothers are able to begin the long journey to America where someone special waits to welcome them to New York City.

One day Frederic Auguste Bartholdi was sitting at a dinner table when a friend of his suggested that France should give America a gift for its hundredth birthday. The gift should be a "memorial to their independence" the friend says. Bartholdi loves big ideas like this and he gets to work trying to raise interest in, and money for, the project. Being a persistent kind of man Bartholdi is finally able to build his "memorial" and it is an enormous statue of a woman holding a book and a flaming torch.

Alternating between the story of Gitl and the story of the Statue of Liberty, this splendid book captures the hopes of one little girl and those of a wonderfully creative artist. For both of them the Statue of Liberty comes to mean something special and powerful.

Gitl's narrative is based on the story of the author's own family, and it serves as a fitting tribute to all those people who came to America looking for a new life.