Book Review: Building Liberty

Reading Level

Ages 9-12

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A wonderful new book from the fine folks at National Geographic arrives just in time for the Fourth of July. Its topic: the building of the Statue of Liberty.

Written by a French graphic artist and originally published in French, Building Liberty tells the story of Lady Liberty through the eyes of four young boys, each of which has his own unique tale:

  • Leo helps build the statue in France. He is an apprentice to the famous architect Frederic Auguste Bertholdi, who has already built the spire of Notre Dame and the dome of the Paris Opera House. Leo works very hard as a coppersmith, helping mold the statue into several huge pieces that will be put together in America. This part of the book is especially instructive in telling how the statue was built from a small model into a massive structure and how painstaking that work really was.
  • Francois is a sailor who accompanies the pieces of the statue on the transAtlantic crossing. Telling his story allows the author to include facts like how much the statue weighed in all, how big the ship had to be to hold all that weight, and how exciting and dangerous sailing could be.
  • Benjamin is the grandchild of slaves and works as a paper boy for Joseph Pulitzer's World. He works hard to sell his paper, and through his eyes we see the still difficult life that African-Americans had in America at this time. We also learn that the Statue of Liberty was not free: Americans had to help pay for the base on which the statue now sits. It was paid for by donations from all across the country, and many people who didn't live in New York weren't too happy about paying for something that they couldn't see every day.
  • Angus is an Irish immigrant whose family have all been firefighters. He, however, wants to be an ironworker. He helps build the base for the statue. We the readers also get questions answered like "How is the statue prepared for a lightning strike?" and "How hard was it to get the pieces to fit together?"

All in all, this is a great little book. The illustrations are done by the author himself, who makes a living illustrating French postage stamps. They are amazing in their depth and choice of color. The words are well-chosen as well, showcasing the difficulties young boys and their families faced in the late 19th century in America and in France.

This book can serve as a primer for any discussion of the building of the Statue of Liberty, and it contains many excellent details that leave the reader knowing much more than the average American about just how that statue came to be.

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