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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

Heavy Medal Finalist – Her Right Foot

her right footShort List Title:  HER RIGHT FOOT

(Titles on our short list will be included in the live Mock Newbery in Oakland.)

In Steven’s previous post about this short listed title “The Message of Ms Liberty’s Foot,” the many strengths of this informative and inspirational picture book were mentioned.  I want to especially echo Steven’s assessment that this book offers “a persuasive argument with a distinct point of view” and not just fun facts with a whimsical tone.  Although that light, conversational, and sometimes irreverent, tone is definitely one of its distinguishing features.

Lines like these lend themselves to delicious read-aloud moments: “to impress and enthrall these French writers, who, being difficult to impress and enthrall, were at least mildly amused,” and “how is it that we have seen and noticed a 450,000-pound human on her way somewhere and said, Eh. Just another 150-foot woman walking off a 150-foot pedestal?

And the final third of the book, after the readers have become well informed of the Statue’s history and facts, builds momentum, gently at first, but turns more and more urgent as readers flip the pages and are confronted with these questions: “where is she going?”; “Why is she moving?” “What does this mean that we often forget about this right foot, this right leg?”

Finally – the author offers his idea, theory, and reminder in the crescendo passages at the end.  And that final sentence, oh my.  “She must meet them in the sea.”  Simply powerful.

This,  my friends, is effective writing.  And I must agree with those who have nominated and endorsed this book that Her Right Foot is distinguished and must be considered for the Heavy Medal Mock Newbery seriously.

Roxanne Hsu Feldman About Roxanne Hsu Feldman

Roxanne Hsu Feldman is the Middle School (4th to 8th grade) Librarian at the Dalton School in New York City. She served on the 2002 and 2013 Newbery Committees. Roxanne was also a member of 2008-2009 Notable Books for Children, 2015 Best Fiction for Young Adults, and the 2017 Odyssey Award Committees. In 2016 Roxanne was one of the three judges for the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards. You can reach her at at


  1. *deep breath*

    Jonathan Hunt once infamously wrote on this blog “If you don’t have anything nice to say, say nothing at all.” This was his reaction to Jerry Spinelli’s HOKEY POKEY.

    HER RIGHT FOOT is *my* HOKEY POKEY, but I can’t hold my tongue. Instead, here’s the review I posted on Goodreads. I’ve edited out some material, including my reaction to the art (immaterial here), a gif, and an ire-inspired cuss word.

    The story of the Statue of Liberty is vitally important – now more than ever. As our country becomes progressively closed off from the rest of the world, as our country moves deeper into the heart of xenophobia (thanks, Supreme Court, for backing a racist, anti-Muslim ban!) – we need to remember what our country stands (stood?) for. We are a country of immigrants. Immigrants, incidentally, who stole the land from natives, but that’s a different story.

    So we need a book that looks behind us but also looks within us. We need a book that celebrates the beauty of immigration, the vibrant cultures that make up the fabric of this country. We desperately need this book.

    But we don’t need this book to be written by David Eggers.

    Boy, do I love the message behind this book. Boy, did I learn some interesting facts.

    Boy, did my hand turn the pages with ever-increasing rage at the cutesy, smug narrator who traipses through history and winks and cajoles and nudges and treats the weight of history with a poke to the ribs. This narrator reminds me of hipsters high-fiving each other over how cool they are while condescending to everyone around them. Except the “everyone around them”, in this case, is *children* because that is (ostensibly) the target audience for this book.

    Tell me, though, what child is going to savor these self-satisfied lines?: “They said this all in French, the language of the French, a people who appreciate the absurd.” ; “Is she going to Soho to get a panini?” ; “Is she going to the West Village to look for vintage Nico records?”

    Honestly, Is any of that even remotely necessary? All these precious asides? All this smug authority? Toward *children*? Nico? Paninis? Come on. Be serious, dude. Immigration is a serious, weighty topic that deserves better treatment than this. Way better treatment.

    The narrative voice unbuckles any goodwill I have toward the messages in this book. Snide narrators may work for a tongue-in-cheek Lemony Snicket or Pseudonymous Bosch book, but it does not work here at all. It’s a truly gobsmacking authorial choice.

  2. I appreciate Joe’s honesty! And though I am CERTAINLY, ALWAYS, PERPETUALLY willing to be irked by Dave Eggers, I found it unwarranted this time. IMHO, the book is funny enough for adults to want to read aloud (we can EXPLAIN who Nico was! we explain references in children’s books all the time!) and compelling enough for kids to want to listen. As I said in Tablet Magazine, I think Eggers avoids too-cool-for-school eye-roll-inducing hipsterism here.

    • I’m doing the ASL “I agree” sign as my students like to do. I also went into this reading this book with skepticism given my other experiences with Eggers’ work, but came out of it delighted. As Roxanne notes above, it makes for a terrific read-aloud. My students very much see it as a promising Newbery contender given the clever voice and development of the text from start to finish. The Nico reference didn’t bother them at all. (Probably because kids are used to not getting every reference in their books.) Something about reading it aloud made me truly appreciate the voice, the sentence level writing, and the clever insertion of factoids.

      • I read this aloud to all my fourth through sixth grade classes. It is a sublime read aloud. I was able to gauge their immediate reactions. I rarely found a student who’s attention wandered. I give it high marks for delivering to an audience of children.

        The one confusing thing, Leonard mentions below, Did she change directions?

        I did find a few moments tangential, but overall the theme is expressed strongly and effectively.

        I’ve already had a fifth grade teacher approach me and ask that I get the book. She was surprised I already had it. independently she found a recommendation to use it in her curriculum.

        And as always, Joe, *High Five*.

  3. Thanks, Marjorie, for a nice, balanced response to my rage-induced polemic. 🙂

    I’m glad I’m not the only person who is “certainly, always, perpetually (!!) willing to be irked by Dave Eggers”. I very much appreciate the observations your wrote in Tablet. I don’t agree necessarily, but it balms me a little that there are nuanced arguments in its favor. (FWIW, I don’t feel like my argument against it is nuanced *at all*.)

    I agree, too, that Harris’ art is beyond winning. Every visual element of that book is pure delight.

  4. Leonard Kim says:

    Seizing on the raised foot to meditate on the meaning of Lady Liberty is a fresh and distinct “interpretation of theme” and I think we all like where the book ends up. But the book says, almost halfway through, “this is the central point to this book–a point the author apologizes for taking so long to get to.” How one takes a statement like that is going to depend on how one feels about the self-inserted author, on the evidence of his voice. Not everyone is going to like it, and so that’s questionable “appropriateness of style” when a less look-at-me voice might have allowed the strong theme to resound for even more readers.

    Be curious how people compare this voice to that of I’M JUST NO GOOD. Personally, I think both books would have more appeal if they were more self-effacing and just trusted their strength.

  5. Leonard Kim says:

    Even if one didn’t attribute smugness and self-satisfaction to the voice, I would argue there are problems with “development of plot.” It’s not just having to wait until p.44 to mention there is supposed to be a “central point”–there were some interesting facts along the way after all. But there is hemming and hawing throughout most of the book. One might argue this is deliberate, in order to contrast with the inexorable, march of the end. But something like, “She is facing southwest, so she is facing New Jersey. Could she be going to Trenton? Wait. No. She is facing southeast. So she is not going to New Jersey.” Is this quality presentation for children? “Presentation of information, including accuracy, clarity.” I don’t see much point in such lines other than not getting to the point.

    • I’m unsure that “development of plot” aspect should be heavily considered for this particular book since it really isn’t quite a linear narrative. It seems to me that it is a fleshed-out musing. As the criteria directs, not all books contain aspects of the listed elements.

      • Leonard Kim says:

        Roxanne, I’m using “development of plot” (the Criteria wording) to encompass things like pacing, balance, structure, Danae’s finding “a few moments tangential”, and how Steven’s “persuasive argument” develops. I agree not all aspects of what we think of as “plot” apply to this book. I do think the character of the narration affects the “plot” aspects I’ve identified and arguably weaken the book’s impact.

      • Leonard, thanks for your explanation. Is this where we concede that the narrative tone works really well for certain members of Heavy Medal while it weakens the book for others? Is the reader’s reaction subjective and thus perhaps members won’t be able to reach consensus or persuade each other to change minds?

  6. I have zero knowledge of Dave Eggers that I am bringing to my reading of HER RIGHT FOOT. I don’t know him, and have never read anything written by him. My initial, personal reaction to the book was one of awe. I read it to my daughter, who’s in second grade. She loved it! I read it to my wife. She liked it! I read it to my 5th graders! They laughed (I’ll get to that in a moment).

    What I liked about it was its unique approach to a picture/nonfiction book and the fact that its primary subject, the Statue of Liberty’s right foot, was such an original, unexplored angle. This book’s central point is important and I liked that the narrator shared some interesting facts with the reader before they arrived at their central point. I thought the artwork was fun and matched the tone of the voice. I thought the build up to the final page was awesome and that lasting image and line were perfect. This is an important book and the message, is certainly needed.

    After reading it to my 5th graders and talking about it, I’ve been thinking about it as a Newbery candidate. As much as I personally adored it, I don’t know if I could find myself voting for it for this award.

    One reason is that the text, which is so limited in a picture book to begin with, sometimes reads clunky. “Here is a rendering of Bartholdi and his team – he had a team; he did not work alone; he did not like working alone – constructing the statue’s hand.” That is a mouthful to read, with odd punctuation. Technically correct, probably, but clunky. The whole “she is facing southwest, no wait, she is facing southeast” part of the text is awkward. Why make an intentional mistake? To be funny? I don’t know. Picture books are difficult to judge against the Newbery criteria because with such limited text, I feel like the text neds to be perfect.

    The other reason I’m reluctant to champion this for a Newbery is the appropriateness of its style. After reading it with 5th graders, I can kind of see what Joe means in the way that the tone of the narration doesn’t exactly match the seriousness of the topic. I had many kids laughing in the opening and being silly and even interrupting and making jokes because it did feel like the narrator was inviting this, in the snide way he was speaking to the audience. By the middle when you finally get to the central point, kids were speechless. I know they understood the meaning of the book through the conversations we had following, but the shift in focus was a bit jarring. Some of my lower students, were very confused. My higher students, had wonderful conversations about the meaning of the ending. I would compare the experience to a really good or engaging presentor or substitute teacher who struggles with audience focus or classroom management!

    I worry a bit about it being interpretted as “didactic” too. Is it “didactic?”

    Overall, I loved the book and will read it to many more students. However as a Newbery contender, I’m not sure if it rises to the top for me.

  7. The facts were absolutely fascinating and I learned so much. I liked the funny/snarky voice, but was a little put off by the parts that felt a little patronizing. Like the quote Mr. H highlights–that to me feels like “I am writing a book for children. So I will make it staccato. Like See Jane Run.”

    Joe, your point about the voice is interesting. (I loved the line about the french, but didn’t love the wandering through the city as much because I’m not quite cool enough to get all the references myself!) I can see where if you take it as a book about immigration that the tone might not fit (although if you want to get them crying, get them laughing and vice versa, so I don’t think there’s any topic where humor is inherently inappropriate). I took it as a book about the Statute of Liberty and those are the parts I liked the best. So I felt more like the ending was a bit tacked on and a bit didactic (to agree with Mr. H). It kind of depends on what mood I’m in whether I find the ending emotional/inspirational or not, but I took that as the shift away from the main tone rather than the beginning being the off-tone part. Although I suppose the book is against me if that’s the part it calls the main point! (I don’t have it in front of me.)

    I agree with Leonard and Mr. H that the changing direction thing is confusing. I think he just wanted to get a New Jersey joke in there, but I had to read it twice to figure out what was going on.

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