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At first the editor, Pat Gauch, and I were talking about a book simply relating the building of the Statue of Liberty, a new project for Jim Burke with whom I had done the successful My Brother’s Flying Machine. However, as I began my research, I found too many other picture books-some quite wonderful-that had already done that simple bit of telling. So I knew I had to find a different way to tell the story. And then suddenly, in one flash of inspiration, I knew-it would be a double story, of a Jewish child from the Ukraine (as my father had been, only a little girl in this telling) coming to America and seeing the Statue for the first time. The simultaneous stories of girl and Statue would need to have corresponding moments, and it was finding those moments, those “story beats,” that were the hardest and at the same time the most satisfying part of writing the book. Jim Burke’s paintings are-as of course I expected-marvelous. My favorite is a two page spread of a train passing across parts of Eastern Europe with wolves watching from behind the trees.
The original printing had a screwed-up page, and so it had to be dealt with before the book could be released. So it was delayed two months, in which time a similar book came out and caught all the publicity! Sigh.
- A Sydney Taylor/Association of Jewish Libraries Award, 2009 Honor Book.
- A piece of art from the book was accepted into the “Original Art Show” at the Society of Illustrators” in New York City in 2008.
What reviewers have said:
- “Yolen’s graceful text and Burke’s illustrations balance the events of emotions of the parallel stories . .The two Atlantic crossings come together in one New York Harbor view of the copper Statue, symbolizing the unifying themes of new ideas, freedom and the opportunity for a fresh start.”-Kirkus
- “A classic tale of an immigrant dream, Yolen’s heartfelt “Naming Liberty” is told in two parallel strands – one of a Jewish girl who longs for an American name as she crosses the ocean with her family, and of Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, the man who built the Statue of Liberty. A lovely tale with lush paintings by Burke, Yolen’s story captures the dreams and passions of freedom as felt by a young immigrant girl and an artist. . . .Readers will be reminded of how special America has always been to so many citizens of different races and backgrounds.”-Copley News Service
- “The picture book format and accessible language of ‘Naming Liberty’ make it appealing and suitable for a wide age range of children. It is a first-rate introduction to the history of an American ensign… and represents children’s book publishing at its finest.”—Ashville Citizen-Times.
- "In this beautiful celebration of freedom two stories are told side by side. . . . A striking celebration of freedom. "— kidsbookshelf.com
- "Yolen is a master storyteller. In “Naming Liberty” she intersperses the story of a Russian family’s dream of coming to America with the dream of a young artist, Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, to build a statute honoring freedom. The artwork is done by Jim Burke, whose crisp oil paintings give the book a timeless feel. While both dreams become a reality, neither happens overnight or without overcoming obstacles. Many Americans will see glimpses of their own family’s history in this tale of immigration and struggle."—Flint Journal
- “I loved this book, and can’t wait to buy my own copy (I borrowed mine from the library)! It makes me happy to know how many great nonfiction texts there are available now for children. Naming Liberty fits that category — it makes history accessible and significant for children. Therefore, it becomes a must, must have for my classroom!!!"—Literate Lives
- "In facing single pages, award-winning author Jane Yolen tells two parallel stories: one portrays a Jewish family in the Ukraine in the 1800s and the other pictures a young French sculptor named Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi. The converging tales add up to an excellent portrait of both the American immigrant experience and the American dream."—Jim Trelease’s Read Aloud of the Week
- "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.—Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children
- "This is a really amazing book. Even more perfect that it makes its debut in an election year and in a time in history where immigration is still a very important issue in many hearts and minds. “This is a book you will enjoy reading with your children that tells the story of America then and now. The two stories in it dovetail seamlessly showing a bigger picture in both detail and scope."— Biblioreads
This book was meant to be a companion to our successful COLOR ME A RHYME and COUNT ME A RHYME. Again I consciously decided to make the poems simpler and to concentrate on rhyming poems.
But finding shapes in nature-after sun being round and moon being crescent shaped and heart shaped leaves and whorls of a shell-can be tough, especially with the straight-lined shapes. So we had to become inventive-a classical rectangle shadow on fronds, triangular alligator teeth, etc.
See Jason’s website for his own take on the book: www.jasonstemple.com
- On nomination list for Cybils in the poetry section.
What reviewers have said:
- "This engaging poetry series features beautiful illustrations and eye-catching photography displays that encourages deep exploration…The photography features simple symmetric forms that may be overlooked but brings another meaning the object itself. The poetry allows young readers to view simple shapes on an emotional level. Whimsical and wondrous; works that open up nature to young readers in a delightful fashion."—Akron, OH Examiner
- "A beautiful, children’s picturebook, matching brief poems…with stunningly beautiful color photographs of natures creatures…"—Midwest Review
- "Yolen’s delightful word pictures are paired to great effect with Stemple’s impressive color photographs."—School Library Journal
- "Indefatigable author Yolen and her photographer son make another foray in an extremely engaging series. These titles are beautifully designed, displaying eye-catching photography and inventive use of typography and placement.…Very enjoyable , and allows for much exploration."—Kirkus
- "Oh, this is an AWESOME book! Think of every book you’ve ever read to a child about shapes. Now forget it because this book is NOTHING like that. Stunning photography and engaging rhyme will make this book a favorite for your family. and will encourage your little ones to see the shapes that are all around them."—jellymom.com
- "As always, Yolen’s poetry manages to be both simple and deep. Her words are accessible, but each poem will have children thinking more deeply than they may have expected. What a testimony to her gift as a poet. Stemple’s photographs offer a real visual treat. From the fiery ball of the sun with grassy silhouettes before it to the arch of a sand dollar half hidden in the sand, his photographs add another dimension to the poems. My favorite poem is that of the rectangle where readers will find rectangles reflected in the strands of a spider web. Made me want to immediately head outdoors and find shapes in my local spider webs. Just lovely.Recommended to add a little poetry to a mathematics class looking at shapes. It will also be a welcome addition to kindergarten classrooms where it may inspire an outdoor expedition for shapes in nature."—Green Lake Library
- "The concept is simple but brilliant…The poems and photographs are beautiful, and together they make quite a book. The extension activities could be endless with this one as well. Teachers and/or students could take nature photos and create their own book of poems. Items could be brought into the classroom to "inspire" young ones. Or even going on a nature walk together and finding a way to write about what you see and hear."—Becky’s Book Reviews
- "Photography may be the most unappreciated and underrated art form. This book is bound to send adult readers scurrying for their cameras, to run afield and capture nature’s incredible displays. Those readers should take the children they love. Read the book, take some photos and create a scrapbook together. A combo of graphic shapes, excellent paper and ink, photographic images and excellent rhyming poetry, this book should become a cultural icon symbolizing all that kids’ books can be. Buy a dozen for gifts."—Suite 101.Com
- "Exquisite photos highlight the beauty of nature in this book. Paired with Jane Yolen’s poems which celebrate 12 shapes, the "art" which is inherent in nature shines through clearly. Readers of all ages will appreciate the beauty of an alligator’s tricorn teeth, the speckled oval of a bird’s egg, and the wave of a palm frond, a feast of images and words."—Toledo Blade
- "Stemple’s beautiful double-page photographs capture shapes in nature while Yolen’s poems — full of action verbs, metaphors and adjectives — look at the shape from a different point of view. Yolen includes other nouns, verbs and adjectives — superimposed on the photos — so that readers might write their own poems on the shape. The result is a visual and aesthetic delight (all ages)."—Catholic Online
- "In this poetry collection Jane Yolen has written twelve image and emotion filled poems which beautifully compliment the photographs taken by her son, Jason Stemple…With tenderness, humor, wit, and an obvious love of nature’s wonders, Jane Yolen takes her young readers on a splendid poetry filled journey into sunlight and shadow, onto beaches and into gentle green places. The pairing of poems and photos could not be better, and on each double page spread the poet also gives her readers some additional shape words. Thus on the oval page, in addition to her poem, readers will find "ovoid" and "ellipse" gently placed around the picture of an egg in a nest."—Looking Glass Review