Emma’s Poem: The Voice of the Stat­ue of Liberty

Lin­da Glaser; Claire A Nivola, illus.
  • Review
By – September 9, 2011
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.

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