Liberty's Voice

The Story of Emma Lazarus
Gr 3—5—Lazarus, born into a life of privilege in New York City in 1849, loved poetry from a very young age. First inspired and later taught via correspondence by Ralph Waldo Emerson, she heeded what her mentor called "listening to the whisper of the voice within" and filled up countless notebooks with poetry. "Words grew, and images took shape"; this recurring expression describing Lazarus's creative process is symbolized by a corresponding motif of stylized swirls and stars superimposed on the expressive pen-and-ink/watercolor illustrations. As Lazarus became aware of the plight of throngs of Russian Jewish immigrants pouring into New York Harbor, her writing became "fueled by anger at injustice, pride in her heritage, and hope for a better world" as she became a passionate humanitarian. When France sent a new statue called "Liberty Enlightening the World" to the United States, Lazarus was invited to submit a poem to help raise funds at auction for the purchase of a pedestal. She drew upon her hopes and dreams for the many immigrants she had helped to craft her poem "The New Colossus." This short biography goes into greater detail about her development and life as a writer than Linda Glaser's Emma's Poem: The Voice of the Statue of Liberty (Houghton, 2010). The evocative illustrations marry well with this accessible, appealing story of a woman both ahead of her time and an important American writer who left a lasting literary legacy to every United States citizen.—Kathleen Finn, St. Francis Xavier School, Winooski, VT
Silverman adroitly tells the story of the privileged nineteenth-century New Yorker who defied the thinking that "girls who used their brains too much would become ill" and shined as a social activist and poet; her "The New Colossus" graces the base of the Statue of Liberty. Schuett's multicolored swirls add verve to the staid historical backdrops. Reading list, websites. Bib.

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