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Naming Liberty Hardcover – July 3, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Using parallel narratives, Yolen recounts the tale of a Russian-Jewish family preparing to emigrate to America, and the story of French artist Frederic Auguste Bartholdi’s creation of the Statue of Liberty. Mama, Papa, and their four children dream of a life far away from the pogroms. They travel by train and boat to New York Harbor, where they view the recently completed Lady Liberty, which Bartholdi envisioned, promoted, and built over the course of 21 years as a monument to freedom. Burke’s luminous paintings, designed on burnt sienna oil-washed boards, convey the landscapes and details of nineteenth-century Europe and New York. The generous use of aqua paint throughout serves as a contrast to the statue’s original copper color and forecasts its current familiar hue. Most spreads have separate artwork for each story line, but some illustrations are combined when story events intersect. An author’s note separates the fiction from fact and offers some additional resources, making this an ideal choice for introducing the concepts of immigration and liberty to young listeners. Grades 1-3. --Kay Weisman


Yolen's graceful text and Burke's illustrations balance the events and emotions of the parallel stories. -- Kirkus

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 6 - 9 years
  • Grade Level: 1 - 4
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Philomel Books (July 3, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399242503
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399242502
  • Product Dimensions: 12.4 x 0.5 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #627,288 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Born and raised in New York City, Jane Yolen now lives in Hatfield, Massachusetts. She attended Smith College and received her master's degree in education from the University of Massachusetts. The distinguished author of more than 170 books, Jane Yolen is a person of many talents. When she is not writing, Yolen composes songs, is a professional storyteller on the stage, and is the busy wife of a university professor, the mother of three grown children, and a grandmother. Active in several organizations, Yolen has been on the Board of Directors of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, was president of the Science Fiction Writers of America from 1986 to 1988, is on the editorial board of several magazines, and was a founding member of the Western New England Storytellers Guild, the Western Massachusetts Illustrators Guild, and the Bay State Writers Guild. For twenty years, she ran a monthly writer's workshop for new children's book authors. In 1980, when Yolen was awarded an honorary Doctor of Law degree by Our Lady of the Elms College in Chicopee, Massachusetts, the citation recognized that "throughout her writing career she has remained true to her primary source of inspiration--folk culture." Folklore is the "perfect second skin," writes Yolen. "From under its hide, we can see all the shimmering, shadowy uncertainties of the world." Folklore, she believes, is the universal human language, a language that children instinctively feel in their hearts. All of Yolen's stories and poems are somehow rooted in her sense of family and self. The Emperor and the Kite, which was a Caldecott Honor Book in 1983 for its intricate papercut illustrations by Ed Young, was based on Yolen's relationship with her late father, who was an international kite-flying champion. Owl Moon, winner of the 1988 Caldecott Medal for John Schoenherr's exquisite watercolors, was inspired by her husband's interest in birding. Yolen's graceful rhythms and outrageous rhymes have been gathered in numerous collections. She has earned many awards over the years: the Regina Medal, the Kerlan Award, the World Fantasy Award, the Society of Children's Book Writers Award, the Mythopoetic Society's Aslan Award, the Christopher Medal, the Boy's Club Jr. Book Award, the Garden State Children's Book Award, the Daedalus Award, a number of Parents' Choice Magazine Awards, and many more. Her books and stories have been translated into Japanese, French, Spanish, Chinese, German, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Afrikaans, !Xhosa, Portuguese, and Braille. With a versatility that has led her to be called "America's Hans Christian Andersen," Yolen, the child of two writers, is a gifted and natural storyteller. Perhaps the best explanation for her outstanding accomplishments comes from Jane Yolen herself: "I don't care whether the story is real or fantastical. I tell the story that needs to be told."

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Book Lover 9 on January 11, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Naming Liberty tells the story of an Eastern European Jewish family seeking a new life in America. Their story is cleverly balanced with the history of the Statue of Liberty. Told through the eyes of seven-year-old Gitl, readers gain a sense of the personal struggles as the family gives up the life they know to seek freedom in America. On alternating pages, the parallel story of the creation of the Statue of Liberty comes to life. The monument was created in France as a gift to America for its 100th birthday. Readers will learn about Barthodi, the artist who created the Statue of Liberty, and the passion that fueled his work. As the Statue of Liberty makes its way to America, so does Gitl's family. The story of the statue is as emotional and heartfelt as the journey of the immigrant family.

The two stories merge as Gitl's family reaches the shores of New York. When Gitl learns that Lady Liberty came to America "...in crates, by train, then by boat," she responds, "Just like me." Wanting to choose a new name in her new country, she asks, "Is Liberty an American name?" Later, she declares, "Here in America ...my name is Liberty. But you can call me Libby."

The details of both stories are fascinating, offering readers a real sense of time and place. Even adults who have general knowledge of the immigrant experience and the history of the Statue of Liberty, will discover interesting facts and details about the historical significance of the intertwined events. The stunning art is done in a muted pallet, reflecting the era represented. Yolen has done a tremendous job of bringing history to life in a dual story that is full of heart, hope, and pride. Naming Liberty is a "must have" purchase for both Jewish and secular libraries. - BARBARA BIETZ - OAK PARK, CA
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Yana V. Rodgers on August 15, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Gitl, a young girl living in the Ukrainian town of Yekaterinoslaf with her three brothers and parents, feels both excited and anxious when she hears Papa's news that the family will leave the Ukraine in search of a safer life in America. Preparing for the move, which includes selling most of the family's assets and sending one of the boys ahead to America to find new work, takes two years. The process of moving such a distance with limited means in the care of a gruff agent necessitates nerves of steel in the face of long waits, uncertainty, a frightening stop at a check point, and cramped quarters for twenty days in the boat's steerage class. Gitl endures it all for the opportunity to find new freedom and a new American name for herself.

As Gitl's story unfolds, Janet Yolen and Jim Burke provide the reader with a parallel story about the French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi and his pursuit of the dream to build a monument in honor of America's independence and the friendship between the two countries. Building what ultimately became the Statue of Liberty took years of lobbying, fundraising, designing, plastering, carpentry, and metalwork. His ingenuity and persistence paid off when the statue was completed in 1884, dismantled the following year and shipped across the ocean in 214 crates, and reassembled upon a grand pedestal for the official unveiling ceremony on October 28, 1886.

These dual stories work well together to give the reader a clear sense of the challenges that immigrants faced in traveling to America and that Bartholdi faced in building Liberty. Also woven into both stories are important economics lessons associated with financial constraints, jobs, and immigration. Burke's gorgeous oil paintings add another layer of sophistication to this informative and appealing book about seeking prosperity.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Liz (pansyliz) Toombs on January 7, 2009
Format: Hardcover
A tale with two stories: one of family and one of history.

The author has written two stories: one which mirrors her families immigration and the other the creation, development, and travels of what we call "Lady Liberty" to the United States. Yolen tells of one brother who goes to the United States to get things set-up so the family can follow in time on the left side pages. The history of the `big idea' that stands in the waters off of Manhattan and her journey from idea to full statue in the bay is told on the right side pages.

This book is long for the really young but would be a great book for elementary students learning about America History, Statue of Liberty, or immigration. The book has nice pictures that can help the readers see the similarities in the stories of family and of history. In a learning environment during a focused story time or part of a lesson plan this book could be utilized to encourage understanding and learning by asking questions amongst the reading that will allow the listeners to think of the immigrant and the larger then life story of a historical part of history. The pictures could be the beginning but with preparation more questions could be developed for the story.

This book is recommended.
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Format: Hardcover
Naming Liberty is unique in the fact that it tells parallel stories of a young girl & her family as they immigrate to America in the early 1900’s and the story of Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, the architect of the Statue of Liberty, from the birth of the idea of the statue to its inception. Both stories complimented one another in explaining the hard work and determination that went into Frances gift to America and the struggles an immigrant faces to start a new life in America.

This book is best suited for older children and a bit lengthy for any single class read aloud and discussion, breaking it up into a couple sessions would be better.
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