From a young age, we are taught that the Statue of Liberty is a universal symbol for freedom and hope that has stood steadfast over New York Harbor since her dedication in 1886. She has never faltered, never moved—but as author Dave Eggers and illustrator Shawn Harris show us in Her Right Foot, this statue is not exactly stationary.
First, Eggers takes us to France, where absurdist scenes pave the way for Lady Liberty’s creation. (A woman plays a tuba on the street outside a café; the designer of the sculpture emphatically waves a banana.) Through Harris’ cut-paper illustrations and Eggers’ cheeky narration, we follow the statue from her assembly in Paris to her Atlantic Ocean voyage and finally to her arrival at what we now call Liberty Island. Over the course of this 104-page picture book, we learn of her in parts, from her knee to the grim look on her face—a collage to help us see the whole, while also conveying her immense size. But have you ever noticed her right foot?
As a dark-skinned boy and white man look closely, it seems the statue may squash them, as her foot is lifted. “That’s right!” Eggers writes. “She is going somewhere! She is on the move!” Harris plays with perspective as we see Liberty’s shadow looming over people below (you can practically hear the fee-fi-fo-fum) as she strolls through New York City.
“Liberty and freedom from oppression are not things you get or grant by standing around like some kind of statue,” Eggers writes. “No! These are things that require action. Courage. An unwillingness to rest.” In the subsequent breathtaking spreads, Harris zooms in and out in perspective to reveal a refugee camp, Liberty looking out over a bay full of boats and planes, and a mother and child gazing down from an airplane window. “After all,” Eggers writes, “the Statue of Liberty is an immigrant, too. And this is why she’s moving. This is why she’s striding.”
With Her Right Foot, Eggers and Harris achieve something truly remarkable: They make a well-loved symbol seem brand new. Lady Liberty is vital, and what readers of Her Right Foot know and understand about her matters now more than ever.