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'Building Liberty: A Statue Is Born'

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[AUG. 11, 2004]  "Building Liberty: A Statue Is Born," by Serge Hochain, National Geographic Society, June 2004, 46 pages.

Building Liberty: A Statue is BornReview by
Linda Harmon

Using the stories and perspectives of four fictional characters, Serge Hochain tells of the construction, the transportation, the raising of funds for the base, and the erection of the Statue of Liberty.

The story begins in 1879 in France with a young man named Leo Pacioli. Leo's father, Angelo, moved the family from Italy to France to make a better life for them. Leo is old enough to start an apprenticeship, so Angelo makes an arrangement for him, with the help of his friend Simon, who is the assistant to the sculptor Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi. Leo becomes a "gofer" for the master metalsmith in the workshop of Gaget, Gauthier and Company. Leo eventually is allowed to work on the copper sheeting that covered the skeleton of Liberty. The statue is completed on Nov. 30, 1884, and Leo is sad that his work on Liberty is over.

The next character we are introduced to is a young man named Francois Penhoet, an orphan who works for the French Navy. This is his first trip abroad, and it is on the ship the Isere, which will be carrying Liberty to her new home in New York City. Starting on May 3, 1885, Francois helps load and inventory all the boxes containing the parts of the statue. When the workers are finished, they have loaded close to 360,000 pounds. They must also load an extra 140,000 pounds of coal to fuel the ship and its precious cargo. Francois meets Mr. Bartholdi and Mr. Gaget, who are passengers on the ship. On June 20, 1885, the ship arrives in New York Harbor. It takes them 10 days to unload Liberty. Francois enjoys a day visiting the city before the ship heads home. It was an amazing experience for Francois.


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Ben Lutherson lives in a poor section of New York City called Five Points. He is a grandson of slaves. His job is selling newspapers for The World. Ben's story shows the prejudice that he deals with on a daily basis and helps us understand his fascination with the Statue of Liberty and what it stands for. Ben uses his job as a newsboy to help raise funds for the construction of the pedestal for Liberty. Thanks to many people like Ben, common people donated more than $100,000.

Angus Donegal lives in New York and is the son of Irish immigrants. He is an ironworker, and in September of 1886 his skills are needed for a big project on Bedloe Island. Angus works on the copper leaves that are riveted together to cover Liberty's skeleton. His father wanted him to follow in his footsteps and be a fireman, but when he sees the important work Angus is doing on the statue, he is very proud of his son's choice of vocation.

France gave the statue in friendship to the United States in honor of the 100th anniversary of American independence from England, but the ceremony to open the statue took place on Oct. 26, 1886.

"Building Liberty" is a great source of information about the Statue of Liberty for the younger reader. The sketched and watercolored illustrations are realistic and full of detail. With the reopening of the statue, this will be a great family resource. The book is recommended for children ages 8 and up.

[Linda Harmon, Lincoln Public Library District]

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