Her Right Foot

Early on in Her Right Foot, the omniscient narrator says, "Did you know that the Statue of Liberty comes from France? This is true. This is a factual book." The defensiveness is the tip-off to readers that this is not a typical biography of an iconic national monument--and hallelujah for that.

Her Right Foot's first half adopts something of the customary "fun facts" approach to children's biography. (Who knew of Thomas Edison's ultimately torpedoed idea to install a gigantic record player inside the statue so she could "speak?") But toward the book's middle, the narrator cuts to the chase: "This is the central point to this book--a point the author apologizes for taking so long to get to." The point is the great green lady's little-discussed mid-stride right foot. Its significance consumes the narrator ("How can we all have missed this?") until the book's "idea," "theory," breathless epiphany: "If the Statue of Liberty," an immigrant herself, "has welcomed millions of immigrants to the United States, then how can she stand still?... In welcoming the poor, the tired, the struggling to breathe free./ She is not content to wait."

Readers needn't be versed in the day's headlines to leave Her Right Foot with an arm in the air, raising not a torch but a fist. As in This Bridge Will Not Be Gray, his children's book about the Golden Gate Bridge, Dave Eggers (A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius) pairs his fourth-wall-breaking narrative with invitingly chunky illustrations, this time construction paper tableaux by debut picture book artist Shawn Harris, whose earthbound scenes are nevertheless transcendent. --Nell Beram, freelance writer and YA author

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