About the Holiday
Today’s holiday was established to celebrate the art of storytelling. Historically, oral storytelling was the way people handed down knowledge, philosophies, and experiences from one generation to the next. Today, while National Storytelling Day highlights oral storytelling, the day also encourages families to get together and have fun remembering and sharing family tales, traditions, history, and events. Reading together is another wonderful way to discover your own stories and those of others around the world. Today’s book reveals a story every reader should know – the story of what perhaps is America’s most recognized symbol and the children who saved her.
Thanks to Scholastic Press and Blue Slip Media for sending me a copy of Let Liberty Rise! for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.
Let Liberty Rise! How America’s Schoolchildren Helped Save the Statue of Liberty
Written by Chana Stiefel | Illustrated by Chuck Groenink
America was about to celebrate her 100th birthday and the people of France were creating a huge gift to commemorate the two countries’ friendship. “It was an enormous statue — one of the largest the world was yet to see! Her name was Liberty” and she symbolized freedom. To be shipped across the ocean, Liberty had to be disassembled and packed into 214 crates. In the spring of 1885 the ship Isère began her voyage with her precious cargo.
It took a month for Isère to reach New York’s Bedloe Island, and soon the crates were waiting to be unloaded. “But a colossal problem had been brewing.” To hold the weight of the statue, the Americans were building a pedestal for Liberty to stand on, and it was only half built. To finish it would “cost more than $100,000 to complete. (That’s $2.6 million today…)” and no one, it seemed, wanted to help. “Without a pedestal, Lady Liberty would never rise.” Lady Liberty needed a champion.
When Joseph Pulitzer, owner of the New York World newspaper and an immigrant himself, heard about the problem, he was furious. He wrote a small article for the newspaper appealing not to the millionaires of America but to the common people and asking them to give money to finish the pedestal. He also offered to print the name of every person who contributed, no matter how much they gave. “The next day pennies, nickels, dimes, and dollars poured in.”
Even schoolchildren sent what they could. Kids donated money they had saved to go to special events or for special treats, they made up Pedestal Fund clubs, and wrote letters saying how proud they were to give. Schools from around the country raised as much as they could—and whether it was $105.07 from New Jersey, $10.00 from a charity group, or $1.35 from a kindergarten class in Iowa, every bit helped.
“Finally, on August 11, 1885, the World’s headline read: ‘One Hundred Thousand Dollars!’” From across the nation, 120,000 people had donated money to make sure Lady Liberty had a pedestal to stand on. As soon as the pedestal was finished, work began on constructing Lady Liberty piece by piece. On October 28, 1886 the inauguration of Lady Liberty was celebrated with festivities and a parade. Now everyone could see America’s monument to “freedom and hope,” and the Statue of Liberty welcomed the immigrants who sailed to our shores in steamships from around the world. Today, Lady Liberty still stands “thanks to the contributions of people all across America — and children just like you.”
Extensive back matter includes a timeline of Lady Liberty’s history from 1865 to 2020, more facts about the Statue of Liberty, resources for further reading and research, and photographs from the original construction of Lady Liberty and the pedestal as well as the inauguration celebration and photographs of sculptor Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi and Joseph Pulitzer.
Chana Stiefel raises children’s empowerment, excitement, and pride in what they can achieve in her uplifting true story of how children were instrumental in building the foundation for the Statue of Liberty. Her straightforward storytelling shines with her conversational style and size and monetary comparisons that clearly demonstrate the enormity of the fundraising accomplishment. The inclusion of quotes from children’s letters at the time will impress and charm today’s kids. As children today become the champions of so many causes they care about, this connection to their historical peers will bring cheer, satisfaction, and inspiration.
Chuck Groenink’s delightful mixed media illustrations inform readers on every page about the time period surrounding, the personalities involved in, and the scale of the project to build the pedestal for the Statue of Liberty. As Groenink portrays the creation of the statue in France, children can see the size of the sculpture in proportion to the men working on it. His depiction of the French harbor town from which the Isère launches is charming, and the process of offloading the crates onto barges that deliver them to the island reveals the meticulous procedures necessary to ensure the statue’s safe arrival.
So when readers turn the pages to discover the scowling faces of adults who didn’t want to pay for the pedestal—and even wanted to send the statue back—they may be shocked. The images of kids donating their hard-earned change, knitting socks to sell, sacrificing candy and trips to the circus, and creating special clubs to raise money will remind charitable readers that they are carrying on a proud tradition to make a difference to their community and their country. A vertical two-page spread of the Statue of Liberty standing over the harbor with fireworks flashing behind her, followed by a view of Lady Liberty as seen through the eyes of immigrants coming to America’s shores are two illustrations that are as inspirational as they get.
A noble, inspiring story about the hope and charity offered by our country, our symbol of freedom, and our children, Let Liberty Rise! is a must-read for all children and should be included in every home, classroom, and public library collection.
Ages 6 – 9
Scholastic Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1338225884
Chana Stiefel is the author of more than 25 books for kids. She hails from sunny South Florida and now lives in New Jersey, just a ferry ride away from the Statue of Liberty. Chana loves visiting schools and libraries as well as sharing her passion for reading and writing with children. She earned a master’s degree in Science, Health, and Environmental Reporting from New York University. To learn more, visit Chana at chanastiefel.com. You can connect with Chana on Facebook | Instagram | Twitter
Chuck hails from an overgrown village among the peat bogs in the north of the Netherlands, where he spent his formative years climbing trees, drawing, reading, and cycling. He attended the Artez Institute of Visual Arts in Kampen, graduating from the Department of Illustration in 2004. He now resides in Valatie, New York, with his wife, dog, and two cats. Visit Chuck at chuckgroenink.com and on Instagram.
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Let Liberty Rise! Educator’s Guide
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