Before reading Linda Glaser’s simple, yet eloquent picture book, Emma’s Poem, one might think one knew most of what there was to know about the Statue of Liberty: gift from France, stands in New York harbor, has a poem on its pedestal written by Emma Lazarus. Glaser’s book tells the story behind the woman who wrote that poem. Emma Lazarus grew up in the lap of luxury. Her visit one day to Ward’s Island, entry port for many tired, hungry, and poor immigrants, had a profound effect on her. These immigrants, mainly Jews like herself, had been terribly mistreated in their home countries. Emma felt compelled to help them. But immigrants were not well-received in Emma’s social circle, an image she vowed to help change. When asked to contribute a poem to an anthology being put together to raise money for the Statue of Liberty pedestal, Emma wrote her now-famous words to welcome all immigrants to our country, words so powerful they were eventually etched on a plaque attached to the pedestal itself. All immigrants would now read Emma’s welcoming words: Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free. Glaser’s descriptive text, combined with illustrator Clair A. Nivola’s careful attention to the historical details of the late 1800’s, make Emma’s Poem a book not to be missed. Although the book is intended for ages 4 – 8, anyone interested in American history and/or the Statue of Liberty would definitely enjoy reading this wonderful journey back through time to Emma Lazarus’s world.
Marcia Berneger is a retired teacher who lives with her husband and three crazy dogs. She taught both first and second grade, as well as special education. She currently teaches Torah school, in addition to her volunteer work in classrooms, libraries, and with various fundraisers. She lives in San Diego.