Nam­ing Liberty

Jane Yolen; Jim Burke, illus.

  • Review
By – February 15, 2012

Based on Yolen’s fam­i­ly his­to­ry, par­al­lel sto­ries take read­ers on a jour­ney from the old world to the new in this beau­ti­ful­ly for­mat­ted offer­ing. Begin­ning at two dis­tinct and dis­tant din­ner tables, the left-hand pages tell the sto­ry of sev­en-year-old Gitl, a Russ­ian Jew­ish girl whose fam­i­ly hopes to immi­grate to the Unit­ed States, while the right-hand pages fol­low the dream of French­man Fred­er­ic Auguste Barthol­di to build a mon­u­ment in hon­or of America’s hun­dredth birth­day, the Stat­ue of Lib­er­ty. Page by page, repet­i­tive phras­ing con­nects the two seem­ing­ly unre­lat­ed sto­ries, e.g. Mov­ing across the ocean…takes time” and “…large dreams take time.” From the plan­ning stages, through delays, frus­tra­tions and final­ly to fruition, two dreams reach their des­ti­na­tion in crates, by train, then boat,” so that Lady Lib­er­ty greets Gitl’s fam­i­ly as they sail into New York har­bor. While the two sto­ries nev­er com­plete­ly merge, their spir­it and mes­sage dove­tail to cre­ate a heart­felt trib­ute the Amer­i­can ide­al of per­son­al free­dom. Illus­trat­ed in a rich palette of orange, brown and aqua, real­is­tic oil paint­ings cre­ate a more sub­tle visu­al link between the sto­ries through ges­tures such as the rais­ing of arms at the din­ner table, the tilt and expres­sion of two heads, and Bartholdi’s glance across the page as he holds up a pic­ture of Liberty’s torch, as though reas­sur­ing the immi­grants on the oppo­site page that their long jour­ney will be well worth it. A fine col­lab­o­ra­tive effort. Grades 2 – 4.

Read­ing Guide

Teri Mark­son has been a children’s librar­i­an for over 18 years. She is cur­rent­ly the act­ing senior librar­i­an at the Val­ley Plaza Branch Library in North Hol­ly­wood, CA.

Discussion Questions