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Philip Reid Saves the Statue of Freedom Review by Jen Steed

Eugene Walton
Sleeping Bear Press
315 Eisenhower Parkway, Suite 200
Ann Arbor, MI 48108

Have you been searching for a picture book that touches on slavery or black history that is beautiful, well-done and off the beaten path? If you weren't before, I bet you are now! Philip Reid Saves the Statue of Freedom is the fictional story of a slave who helped build a statue and earned the respect of men around him, despite being a slave. This new piece of children's historical fiction was released by Sleeping Bear Press, a company well known for publishing well-written yet educational children's books, in late 2013.  Philip Reid Saves the Statue of Freedom is an excellent story that could be used to illustrate many virtues & values.

Philip Reid Saves the Statue of Freedom is the story of a smart young man who seemed to enjoy learning and soaked up knowledge everywhere he could. His mother was portrayed as a wise mother who passed wisdom and character down to him. Because he studied and watched others, he was a skilled slave and was purchased by an artisan who needed his help. There he learned about plaster molds and pouring bronze. His master took Philip Reid with him to get a large mold at the Capitol building so they could make a statue. The Italian artist was trying to get more money and so he wouldn't take apart the mold for transport. The man who owned Philip told the men that he could do it. Within an hour, Philip had carefully figured out how to dismantle the mold. He had earned the respect of everyone there and was even paid by the government for helping to work on the statue on Sunday's.

The author of Philip Reid Saves the Statue of Freedom did a fabulous job of painting a picture of the life of Philip Reid. R. Gregory Christe, the illustrator, was able to help the reader picture the story with his illustrations. From the pictures of Philip watching & learning to the pictures of him working at the bronze foundry, they really helped give a visual where more words would have been required. The text was clear and had the style of a campfire story to them. It almost had a lyrical quality to it. In addition, the book includes primary source documents and historical information.

I have been to DC and do not recall hearing the story when I was there, but I can guarantee that we will make it a point to look for the display at the Capitol building when we go. This book is a great springboard for discussion about the value of doing your best and learning from others. It's also a great pick if you are looking for a great picture book for Black History month that isn't about commonly written figures like Rosa Parks, MLK and the like. Philip Reid Saves the Statue of Freedom is a story that is great just because a man learned as much as he could, worked hard, and did great things. Intended for children ages 8-11, you could read it with younger children, but an older child would grasp more elements of the story. Overall, we enjoyed this books and I recommend it to anyone looking for good biographical picture books.

Product Review by Jen Steed, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine LLC, May, 2014