Her Right Foot
By Dave Eggers, Art by Shawn Harris
Review by Patricia Nyhan
Yes, that Dave Eggers. The beloved adult fiction writer of several novels with immigrant and human rights themes, such as one I love, “What is the What?” about a Sudanese Lost Boy. But can he write for kids? Yes!
As the middle-grade reader market takes on more nonfiction, Eggers and Harris have found a way to make the Statue of Liberty a funny, informative story that captures the immigration moment we live in. Lots of questions to engage readers conversationally: “Did you know?” Followed by intriguing details about the statue’s origins in France and finally the surprising fact that The Lady’s right foot is . . . striding forward.
“What does this mean?” the author asks. Which is so great to get to when you read this book to a child. It makes them think. Then we get the answer:
“If the Statue of Liberty has welcomed millions of immigrants to the United States, then how can she stand still?” She is “not content to wait” to welcome newcomers.
“After all, the Statue of Liberty is an immigrant, too. And this is why she’s moving. This is why she’s striding,” says Eggers. I never thought of it that way until reading this book. Just one of many new ways of looking at the statue – which makes the book interesting to adults, too.
It can be hard to know what to read our kids about immigration that won’t upset or bore them. By getting us interested in the Statue of Liberty’s history and the peculiar fact of The Lady’s right foot on the move, Eggers brilliantly turns our most iconic symbol of who we are as a nation of immigrants into a story with a lesson of welcoming immigrants that kids and adults alike can enjoy.
Harris’s illustrations engagingly morph over the course of the book from European to today’s refugees and immigrants, tying our immigration history together.
A plus is the photos of the statue and the plaque with the Emma Lazarus poem at the end, along with a “Further Reading” section.
Her Right Foot, by Dave Eggers, art by Shawn Harris. 2017. Chronicle Books LLC, San Francisco.