Sunday, September 24, 2017

Picture Book Review: Listen: how Pete Seeger got America Singing by Leda Schubert

Listen: how Pete Seeger got America Singing by Leda Schubert. Illustrated by Raul Colon. unpgd. A Neal Porter Book/ Roaring Brook Press, June, 2017. 9781626722507. (Review from finished copy courtesy of Blue Slip Media)

Okay. Full disclosure here. I adore Pete Seeger. I also love Leda Schubert and Raul Colon. But back to Pete Seeger. I grew up the oldest of six children born in ten years. My childhood was imperfect with a capital I. But the songs of Pete Seeger were a part of it. My dad admired him. Fast forward to 1979 when I discovered Harry Chapin. I attended too many of his concerts to count and "Old Folkie" always brought me back to my dad and his admiration for Pete Seeger. Fast forward to today when I mention Pete Seeger or Woodie Guthrie to my students and am met with blank stares. 

If ever there was a time that need this biography, now is the time. The reader is asked to Listen. Listen. Listen as Pete got folks singing. He'd sing old songs, new songs and prompt tenors, altos and basses to join in to create four part harmony that "would rise to the rafters and drift to the stars."

This lyrical, spare blank verse biography brings Pete Seeger to life for children who may sing his songs without understanding the story behind them. Pete sang the Truth. He was unafraid to  to join union organizers or farmers or hoboes. He stood up the to House Un-American Activities Committee of the United States Congress. He joined the fight for Civil Rights. He campaigned for a cleaner Hudson River. He walked the walk. He talked the talk. And now is the time for a new generation to lift their voices. 

Raul Colon's illustrations follow Pete from his early days through his later years. The scratchy watercolor and pencil drawings capture the folk singer's commitment to social justice and is sure to inspire a new generation of social activists. A timeline, endnotes, selected bibliography and recommended recordings round out this remarkable picture book biography. I can't wait to share this with my students.

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