Friday, July 06, 2007

Liberty by Lynn Curlee

Liberty was our family read aloud on Independence Day, a great book for the occasion and a little something to make the miles zoom by faster! Lynn Curlee is a gifted illustrator and combines architecture, art, and history in a fascinating way. Though considered picture books, none of the titles I have seen have been too juvenile for an adult to enjoy. Boys who like to build things and figure out how things work will especially enjoy the Brooklyn Bridge title.

Back to the subject at hand......Liberty is the story of our own "Mother of Exiles," the Statue of Liberty, from her earliest conception to her recent renovation. It is a fascinating journey that begins in Versailles, France at a dinner party. American admirer and law professor Edouard deLaboulaye was hosting a dinner party at his home in 1865, and during the course of the evening's conversation suggested that a monument "Be built in America as a memorial to their a united effort...the common work of both nations."

His words planted a seed of vision in a young sculptor named Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi, a man who knew how to dream BIG. Building a modern day colossus, a tribute to liberty, became his obsession. Liberty details the travels, fund raising, the public relations efforts and preliminary sculpting that the young visionary had to go through in order to see his dream become a reality.
One thing I found astounding was that Bartholdi began his work (on the hand and torch) before knowing HOW the immense copper statue would actually be held up. It seems he had the boldness to begin his project, and the momentum brought it forward to the point where each problem was solved in turn.

The armature of the statue was was designed by Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel, the famous French engineer known as the "magician of Iron." He would later (in 1889) go on to build his own masterpiece, the Eiffel Tower. The support system was comprised of iron beams and ribs and 600,000 rivets. All of this is intricately and clearly explained in the book.

The picture I loved best was one depicting the head of Lady Liberty being transported in a wagon of straw with 13 huge draft horses pulling her through the streets. On her way to a Paris exposition, she seemed almost alive as the movement gave her the appearance of nodding to the onlookers.

The Emma Lazarus poem, "The New Colossus" has become inextricably linked to Lady Liberty, and is quoted and explained for young readers.

I came away with a sense of awe as I closed the book~~ what a magnanimous gift our country was given. I hope someday to see her for myself. But beyond that~~my hope is that somehow, in spite of the quagmire of immigration tangles, we may continue be known as a nation equally magnanimous and wise in giving the gift of light and liberty to "the huddled masses yearning to breathe free."

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