Lib­er­ty’s Voice: The Sto­ry of Emma Lazarus

Eri­ca Sil­ver­man; Stacey Schuett, illus.
  • Review
September 1, 2011

The words, Give me your tired, your poor…” are famil­iar to adults and chil­dren alike. That inscrip­tion on the Stat­ue of Lib­er­ty has become an icon­ic bit of Amer­i­cana. But what do young read­ers know about the Jew­ish author of those words? Emma Lazarus was a tal­ent­ed and pas­sion­ate woman whose love of poet­ry began in child­hood. Her father nur­tured her writ­ing ambi­tions. He self-pub­lished a book of her teenage poems and intro­duced her to her favorite writer, Ralph Wal­do Emer­son, who then became her men­tor. She found inspi­ra­tion all around her: nature, war, an his­toric syn­a­gogue — and soon became a well-known poet and polit­i­cal activist. Emma Lazarus was par­tic­u­lar­ly affect­ed by the con­di­tion of Russ­ian Jews both in East­ern Europe and as immi­grants on Amer­i­can shores. When approached to write a poem about the soon-to-be ded­i­cat­ed Stat­ue of Lib­er­ty, Emma’s first response was that she can not write to order…poetry must come from the heart.” And that’s where her immor­tal words came from. While Eri­ca Silverman’s well-craft­ed words describe the spir­it and pas­sion of Emma Lazarus, the beau­ti­ful­ly styl­ized full­col­or illus­tra­tions by Stacey Schuett cap­ture the times in which she lived. It is impor­tant to note that through those words and illus­tra­tions young read­ers will real­ize the Jew­ish influ­ences on Emma’s immor­tal The New Colos­sus. High­ly rec­om­mend­ed. For ages 5 – 9.

Discussion Questions