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

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

by Chana Stiefel, illustrated by Chuck Groenink

Scholastic Press

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Sandy Wasserman
FANTASTIC BOOK, but first: Though technically a picture book, there is so much wonderful information here beyond the picture book genre; this book tells us how Lady Liberty came to be -- it's her biography! When France gifted the Statue of Liberty to the US for its 100th birthday, funds ran out, and there wasn't enough money for her pedestal. What to do? Saving the day, Joseph Pulitzer, Jewish journalist and owner of the newspaper The New York World had an idea. He published the problem in the newspaper, asking for donations, and then published the names of all the donors, no matter the amount, large or small, including those from children! From spring 1885 to fall 1886, it all worked out: Lady Liberty rose, pedestal and all, and a parade ensued. (Sound familiar? This was the forerunner to today's GoFundMe!) Since then, Lady Liberty stands for the hundreds of thousands of immigrants to see upon arrival in New York Harbor. Along with Emma Lazarus' famous poem, an invitation to enter the United States of America. Lady Liberty's entire history is included in the back matter. The illustrations showing children empowered by all of this is so delightful, even using quotes of many.
The United States is a nation of immigrants, with Jewish Americans among those huge numbers. Joseph Pulitzer was an immigrant too. Tzedakah (charity) has a large place in Judaism, as does working together as a community to accomplish a goal. In its entirety, in making Lady Liberty rise, this is a Jewish story.
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Reviewer Sandy Wasserman is a retired teacher of Gifted and Talented students, and taught for 35 years in both public schools and at a Solomon Schechter Day School. She's a wife, mother of two adult daughters, and grandmother to two fantastic 'first readers' of her manuscripts. Her published book, The Sun's Special Blessing [2009], was her first serendipitous and fun experience in the publishing world. She loves to read and swim, though not at the same time.