|Image: Clarion/ HMH|
Let Your Voice be Heard: the life and times of Pete Seeger by Anita Silvey. 104 p. Clarion/ Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, August, 2016. 9780547330129. (Review of purchased finished copy.)
As I mention in this review of Listen: how Pete Seeger got America Singing by Leda Schubert, I am a lifelong fan of the musician. This slim, readable biography of the singer is a great next step for young readers intrigued by the picture book biography. In fact, that's what I hope will happen to any student who picks Listen in my sixth grade picture book biography unit. I want them to learn more. It wouldn't hurt if they developed a taste for folk music, activism and narrative non-fiction while they are at it.
Silvey prefaces her biography with an introduction that relates a rather scary encounter Seeger and others had leaving a concert performance in 1949. She then travels back in time to Seeger's early life. He was born into privilege and can trace his family back to the Mayflower. Both his parents were classically trained musicians who caravanned around the country with their three boys, playing music until their marriage dissolved when Seeger was eight-years-old. After that he was sent to a series of boarding schools, where he read voraciously, developed self-reliance and found mentors.
He discovered journalism while in high school and followed in his brothers' footsteps to Harvard University only to be surprised that journalism was not offered. Curious oversight. He settled for sociology but it bored him and he was put on academic probation. So he set out to discover himself artistically and travelled the country eventually settling in New York.
Silvey traces his career and provides historical context. Illustrated with many black and white photos and archival materials such as concert posters, middle school readers should grow to appreciate Seeger's many contributions.
Back matter is plentiful as well, containing an author's note, sources, suggestions for further reading as well as videos, but no discography. Each chapter has a title and a quote of a song in Seeger's repertoire.
Let Your Voice be Heard is a solid addition to the biography section of any school or public library.