Cover image for Liberty
Larson, Kirby, author.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Physical Description:
221 pages ; 22 cm
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.


Material Type
Shelf Number
Item Holds
Book J F LARSON Youth Reading Level Fiction

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.

Reviews 2

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.

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