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Cover image for Liberty
First edition.
Physical Description:
221 pages ; 22 cm
Reading Level:
640 L Lexile
In 1940s New Orleans, Fish Elliot is a polio-survivor with a knack for inventing and building things, and his African American neighbor Olympia is a girl with a talent for messing things up, but they are united in an effort to save a starving stray dog they call Liberty--and when Liberty is caged by a nasty farmer, they find an unlikely ally in a German prisoner of war, Erich, who is not much older than the two children.

On Order



From Newbery Honor author Kirby Larson comes the moving story of a young boy who, with a dad fighting in Europe and a sister working at the Higgins Boat factory, longs to have a dog of his own.

Fish has a knack for inventing. His annoying neighbor, Olympia, has a knack for messing things up. But when his latest invention leads Fish to Liberty, a beautiful stray dog who needs a home, he and Olympia work together to rescue her.

At the Higgins boatyard, where the boats that just might save the Allied forces during World War II are built, the wartime workforce is integrated and includes women and the disabled. However, a friendship that crosses racial lines is not the norm in 1940s New Orleans.

Fish, who suffered from polio and whose dad is away fighting in Europe, looks up to Mr. Higgins, and he's thrilled when one of his inventions helps Mr. Higgins's engineers unlock the mechanics of the landing crafts. Mr. Higgins inspires him to be bold and brave. As Fish enlists the help of unexpected friends and allies to save Liberty, he finds his perceptions of the world -of race and war, family and friendship -transformed.

Author Notes

Kirby Larson is the acclaimed author of the 2007 Newbery Honor book Hattie Big Sky ; its sequel, Hattie Ever After ; The Friendship Doll ; Dear America: The Fences Between Us ; Duke ; Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction winner Dash ; Liberty ; Audacity Jones to the Rescue ; and its sequel Audacity Jones Steals the Show . She has also co-written the award-winning picture books Two Bobbies: A True Story of Hurricane Katrina, Friendship, and Survival and Nubs: The True Story of a Mutt, a Marine, and a Miracle . She lives in Washington with her husband and Winston the Wonder Dog.

Reviews 4

Horn Book Review

In Larsons third WWII dog story (Duke, rev. 9/13; Dash, rev. 9/14), a young boy in New Orleans nicknamed Fish rescues a stray dog and names her Liberty. He then has to save her a second time when she runs off and is caught by angry Mr. LaVache, who hopes to make money selling her soon-to-be-born puppies. This time, Fish gets unexpected help from seventeen-year-old Erich, a German POW whose story is told is intermittent chapters; Fish, a polio survivor, reminds Erich of his younger brother back home, who also has a limp. As in the previous books, Larson brings the historical setting to life with vivid details and draws readers into the story with a heartfelt dog-and-child relationship. The friendship between Fish (who is white) and his neighbor, a young African American girl named Olympia, may be convenient, but it comes across as natural, a result of their bond over Libertys welfare. (An authors note explains Larsons own thoughts on the probability of a friendship like theirs in 1944.) Fish meeting his hero FDR is more of a stretch, but readers will enjoy the pairs bonding over dogs, inventions, and little obstacles like polio that make us stronger. jennifer m. brabander (c) Copyright 2016. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Booklist Review

Fish Elliott invents things out of piles of junk. One of his inventions inspires an engineer at the boatyard where his older sister works in support of the war effort, and this contribution makes Fish feel useful in spite of a leg crippled by polio. After hearing a neighbor threaten a stray hound, Fish decides to adopt the dog and names her Liberty. When his new friend Olympia accidentally frees Liberty from her cage, Fish discovers that the mean neighbor has trapped her and plans to drown her puppies and Fish can't let that happen. Larson's latest gently touches upon serious themes of war and disability. While the relationship between Fish and his sister is sweet, it feels odd that their father has voluntarily left his disabled child. Also peculiar is how some chapters are told from the perspective of Erich, a German prisoner of war. Although Erich eventually helps Fish rescue Liberty from LaVache's property, the focus on his character does not feel vital. Give to young readers who have a heart for dogs or historical fiction.--Young, Michelle Copyright 2016 Booklist

School Library Journal Review

Gr 3-6-A tale of determination set in World War II-era New Orleans. Fish Elliott dreams of being an inventor, but that sometimes seems out of reach for a kid who lost his mother at birth, has had polio, and lives with his sister while his dad is fighting overseas. Fish's latest invention not only brings him to the attention of a prominent local businessman, it leads him to a stray dog that needs a home. Fish works with his friend and neighbor Olympia to rescue the dog, whom Fish names Liberty, and discover what being brave is all about. Although this may seem like a simple "boy and his dog" story at first glance, it takes on a number of deeper issues. Olympia is African American, and her friendship with Fish is atypical for the 1940s setting. Fish witnesses some of the racism of his neighbors (albeit from a distance) and shows some insight when he takes Olympia to an event and realizes how uncomfortable it must be for her to be one of the very few nonwhite people there. The war is ever present in the narrative, with nearly every family having someone serving, in training, or working in a new role on the home front. Larson also weaves in a parallel plotline about a young German prisoner of war who ends up in a prison camp in New Orleans and then encounters Fish and Olympia. VERDICT A slice-of-life tale for historical fiction fans and animal lovers alike. Recommended for school and public libraries.-Heather Webb, Worthington Libraries, OH © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

A white boys love for a dog crosses social divisions in this World War II story. Its New Orleans in the 1940s. World War II is raging, Jim Crow laws are in effect, and neighbors sit on front porches seeking respite from the heat. Fish Elliott and his sister, Mo, are anxiously awaiting the return of their father from Europe and dreading the daily rounds of the telegram delivery boy. Whether it is a rabbit trap designed to save his neighbors victory garden or a contraption he uses to strengthen his polio-damaged leg, Fish loves to invent things. In a world where women are not allowed to be engineers, blacks and whites go to separate schools, and Germans are seen as evil, Fishs inventions help bridge gender, racial, and culture divides. When Fish and his African-American neighbor Olympia find a stray hound, they are determined to take her in. But when an unscrupulous neighbor steals her, they need the help of a German POW to rescue her and her newborn pups. In this companion to Duke (2013) and Dash (2014), Larson once again creates an engaging story that is rich in historical details. She purposefully captures both the fear and the hope in a world torn by war as well as the simple love of a boy for his dog. Practically perfect. (Historical fiction. 8-12) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

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