Light For All by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Raúl Colón

Light For All by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Raúl Colón. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2021. 9781534457270

Rating:  1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

Format: Hardcover picture book

What did you like about the book? This beautiful picture book honors the generations of immigrants who have come to the United States and the many reasons that may have brought them here.  Under the welcoming glow of the Statue of Liberty’s lamp, families come to reunite with relatives, refugees to escape war-torn homelands, and victims of natural disasters to seek a new home.  As they make their way, they make connections with others who came before them, even those who are part of the “long, bitter story of (the founding of) the US,” to become an important part of a new hopeful generation, guided by the Statue of Liberty.

The text is full of rich vocabulary and thoughtful phrasing, and beautifully and concisely conveys the struggles as well as the optimism that are part of the immigrant experience.  Themes of equality, acceptance, and understanding feature prominently in the lyrical writing.  But Raúl Colón’s glowing illustrations are what really make this book a standout.  From the early pages showing families in different stages of transition to the beautifully diverse groups of children on playgrounds and in classrooms, the detailed pictures are interesting to study and provide readers with a lot of opportunity to find empathy.  The symbolism of the Statue of Liberty with her lamp that shines for us all recurs throughout, in both words and pictures; she appears in several scenes as a beacon, and even shows up as a souvenir on one girl’s bedside table.  Notes from both author and illustrator are included, describing their own experiences and feelings regarding the Statue of Liberty.

Anything you did not like about the book?  Not to discount the symbolism and significance of the Statue of Liberty, but young readers may infer that the only way in to the U.S. passes by her island (or they may assume there are multiple statues).  And most unfortunately, on the most gorgeous page spread in which a multitude of children bask in her glow (and thus have the same iridescent skin tone) while learning to communicate with each other, the statue disappears into the gutter of the book, so readers will have to look carefully to understand why the children’s faces are colored as they are.

To whom would you recommend this book? It will make a nice addition as a read aloud for teachers in elementary grade levels to introduce or enhance a unit on immigration and migration.  It might also tie in nicely with a lesson on the construction of the Statue itself.    

Who should buy this book? Public and elementary school libraries

Where would you shelve it?  Picture books

Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles?  No

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City:  Leigh Russell King, Lincoln Street School, Northborough, Massachusetts.

Date of review: February 8, 2022

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