The Statue of Liberty: Her Right Foot
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In light of all the recent news, I realize that more than ever, I really do care—about art, literature, and compassion for strangers. So this week, I’d like to share my new favorite book about the Statue of Liberty: Her Right Foot. Created by writer Dave Eggers and artist Shawn Harris in 2017, this illustrated Junior Library Guild selection revels in the history of Bartholdi’s 151-foot-tall international shining star, from her four-foot nose down to her fast-grooving toes.
That’s right. According to Eggers and Harris, the Statue of Liberty is depicted in mid-stride. But why is she on the go? they wonder. And where is she headed? Could it be a vintage record shop in the West Village? A panini run in Soho? Trenton, New Jersey? The pair has a theory that will spur on activists worldwide, young and old. Witty and informative, the positive message embedded in the answer is also contagious.
“If the Statue of Liberty is a symbol of freedom, if the Statue of Liberty has welcomed millions of immigrants to the United States,” they ask, “then how can she stand still? Liberty and freedom from oppression are not things you get or grant by standing around like some kind of statue. No! These are things that require action. Courage. An unwillingness to rest.”
Here’s the deal
Since making the purchase of Her Right Foot one recent weekend, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. Frankly, I was hooked by the first few pages about my favorite Franco-American collaboration. Here’s a nibble:
“You may have also heard of something called the Statue of Liberty. Did you know that the Statue of Liberty comes from France? This is true. This is a factual book.”
The lyrical prose is crystal clear. The tone is friendly, even sassy at times. Passages flow in a rhythmic Hamilton meets Dr. Seuss sort-of-way. Here’s more:
“These parts were assembled in New York City. No wait. First they were assembled in Paris. Did you know this? Ask your friends and even your teachers if they knew that before the Statue of Liberty was assembled in New York, she was first constructed in Paris. Your friends and teachers will be astonished. They will be impressed. They might even think you are fibbing. But you are not fibbing.”
For all ages
Decked out in matte hues of greens, pinks, and blues, I was mesmerized from cover to cover. With joyful zeal and cut-paper, Shawn Harris deftly captures the lively Paris and New York cityscapes. By the way, this is his first book. I say: Bravo and more please, Shawn Harris. Published by Chronicle Books, the 104-page illustrated book is a powerful reminder of the importance of global friendship, cooperation and innovation.
As my friend Virginia wrote after reading and re-reading it with a young friend, “Her Right Foot is a book that should be read out loud. Loud and clear! It spun me along with the outstanding details of the statues creation, and then it grabbed and clutched at my heart with the final words.”
If so, get thee quickly to your own local bookstore, and perhaps purchase not just one copy but two copies, and then pass one along to a neighbor, friend or family member—or to your local library. Perfect timing, too. The 4th of July and Bastille Day on the 14th of July are just around the corner. Help keep the friendship torch burning and moving.
Because, as Egger also wrote, “After all, the Statue of Liberty is an immigrant too. And this is why she’s striding. In welcoming the poor, the tired, the struggling to breathe free. She is not content to wait. She must meet them in the sea.”
I completely agree. To love is to act.
Trekking to Paris?
While you’re there, check out the prototypes of Bartholdi’s La Statue de la Liberté scattered around the city. Grab a pen or a pencil. You can find them in a range of sizes near the Pont de Grenelle on the Île des Cygnes (Métro: Bir-Hakeim), in the Jardin du Luxembourg (Métro: Odéon), and at the Musée des Arts et Métiers (Métro: Arts et Métiers).
You can also find a full-size version of her famous torch at the entrance to the Pont de l’Alma tunnel. Nowadays, the “Flamme de la Liberté” memorial serves double duty as the unofficial Princess Diana shrine. Also, Bartholdi’s former studio is located at rue de Chazelles in the 17th arrondissement (Métro: Courcelles). Parc Monceau is just around the corner. Look for the plaque.
One last thing
Prior to the Statue of Liberty’s voyage in 1885, Victor Hugo paid a visit to Bartholdi’s Gaget, Gauthier et Cie. workshop. He was moved to remark, “C’est Superbe! Yes, this beautiful work tends to what I have always loved, called: peace. Between America and France—France, which is Europe—this guarantee of peace will remain permanent. It was good that it was done.”
Lead photo credit : La Statue de la Liberté, Musée des Arts et Métiers, Paris (Photo by Theadora Brack)