Her Right Foot (Chronicle, Ages 3-7) by Dave Eggers and Shawn Harris is a handsome, cheerful and entertaining celebration of the Statue of Liberty — and a look at a surprising feature of the colossal figure that has gazed out over New York Harbor since 1886. Eggers’s amiable, conversational narrative invites young readers and listeners to imagine the work that went into this impressive project. A century or so after the Declaration of Independence, a French professor, Édouard de Laboulaye, had the idea of creating a monument to the American achievement of liberty and democracy. The result — a giant statue of a woman wearing heavy robes and a crown of rays and carrying a torch and a book — was designed by another Frenchman, Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, who supervised the construction in France. Lady Liberty was originally assembled in Paris, where she stood for nearly a year in 1884, before being shipped — in 214 crates — across the Atlantic to New York. She herself was an immigrant, copper-brown when she arrived from France in 1885 (the statue turned green in about 1920), and it took 17 months to assemble the statue on Bedloe’s Island, as Liberty Island was called then. Harris’s friendly, bright illustrations, suffused with sunlit yellows, invite readers to see what happens next — and to find out what is surprising about the tall figure. Liberty gazes out to sea, somewhere south and east of the continent, and her right foot is poised to step. In Eggers’s telling, Liberty is ready not only to greet travelers coming home and those seeking refuge, but to stride forth to welcome them.

Kathie Meizner

“Meet Cindy Sherman,” by Sandra Jordan and Jan Greenberg (Roaring Book Press)

Growing up on Long Island in the late 1950s and 60s, Cindy Sherman multitasked — watching TV as she drew pictures and made her own paper dolls. She also played dress-up, sometimes startling neighbors by wearing ghoulish makeup or one of her great-grandmother’s dresses. Meet Cindy Sherman: Artist, Photographer, Chameleon (Roaring Brook, Ages 8 to 12) shows — in words and pictures — how a fairly ordinary child grew up to create unnerving art and build a formidable career. Co-authors Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan make it clear that Sherman was willing to experiment, struggle and fail. In fact, she flunked her first photography class in college before impressing the next teacher with her risk-taking images. Sherman is most famous for putting herself at the center of her art, and the authors explain both how she has come up with her series themes (such as Film Stills, Fashion Pictures and History Pictures) and how she transforms her appearance for the photographs. And just as Sherman assigns numbers to her pictures rather than titling them, so the authors encourage readers to interpret Sherman’s enigmatic scenes for themselves. Since most of the photographs contain elements of mystery and menace, and some of them were meant to repel, adults supervision might be required while looking at some images. On the other hand, older readers intrigued by the book’s art and ideas will want to look for the engagingly strange selfies on Sherman’s newly public Instagram account.

Abby McGanney Nolan

“You Bring the Distant Near,” by Mitali Perkins (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Mitali Perkins explores family bonds and cultural assimilation in You Bring the Distant Near (Farrar Straus Giroux, Ages 12 and up), which is longlisted for this year’s National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. This touching, intricately layered novel follows an Indian American family who immigrated to the United States in the 1970s as it adjusts to life here and faces both opportunities and struggles over time. The teenage daughters in each generation alternate point of view, focusing on key moments and concerns — identity, romance and friendship among them. Tara and Sonia Das must navigate a new school in Queens as they explore budding interests in acting and feminism, respectively. Their mother, Ranee, much to their chagrin, emphasizes Indian traditions and holds prejudices against their predominantly black neighborhood. Tensions escalate when Sonia begins to date a black scholar athlete, whom she later marries. The novel then jumps to the late 1990s, and into the perspectives of Tara and Sonia’s daughters, Anna and Chantal. Tara is now a Bollywood actress and Sonia a journalist and activist, and it is fascinating to see how their life choices impact their children. Chantal must assert her identity as both black and Bengali to two strong, doting grandmothers. Anna advocates for Indian mores and environmental causes at the posh private school she attends with Chantal. Over time, Ranee’s rigid, racist stance softens as she grows to love her adopted country and all the members of her widening family. Accomplished storytelling, vividly drawn characters and details that capture the changing American zeitgeist broaden this vibrant book’s appeal beyond its target audience. Readers across the generations will take it to their hearts.

Mary Quattlebaum

young readers