“Pete Seeger was born with music in his bones”
That powerful statement encapsulates Susanna Reich’s new picture biography, Stand Up and Sing!: Pete Seeger, Folk Music, and the Path to Justice, illustrated by Adam Gustavson.
Why read about Pete Seeger? First of all, he was a popular musician. Many people have heard — or even sung — Pete Seeger’s folk songs. In addition, he was a social activist interested in making a difference. For example, Seeger joined Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the protest marches in Alabama. It was a time when simply performing on the same stage with African American singer Paul Robeson made him the target of violence. By taking chances, however, he helped make changes.
In addition to standing up, Seeger could be creative with his efforts to bring about change. When he became upset about how polluted the Hudson River had become, rather than staging protests or writing letters, he decided to build a boat and take people out to see the damage first hand. The boat, named the Clearwater, is still sailing on the Hudson River and it is “clear” the water is cleaner these days because of Seeger’s endeavors.
It is also “clear” author Susanna Reich is passionate about her subject. She explains her feelings of personal connection in the “Author’s Note” in the back matter. Among other ties, she lives in the Hudson Valley and attended many of Seeger’s concerts. Although she’s a big fan, when she started writing this book she probably had no idea how important and timely it would be.
Adam Gustavson’s illustrations shine a further light on Pete Seeger’s life. The main illustrations are digitally-enhanced paintings of gouache, watercolor, and/or oils. Accompanying the more formal illustrations are simpler line drawings that strengthen the down-to-earth tone.
All in all, Stand Up and Sing! is a rousing tribute to a popular folk singer. It is sure to appeal to young musicians and history buffs, alike. Time to sing its praises.
Age Range: 6 – 9 years
Publisher: Bloomsbury (March 14, 2017)
Suggestions for Related Activities:
1. Listen to some music by Pete Seeger.
3. Pair this nonfiction biography with the delightful fiction picture book written by Pete Seeger, Abiyoyo (illustrated by Michael Hays). It is based on a South African folktale. Don’t skip the introduction because Seeger writes how he first told the story to his kids. He also has advice on how to develop and tell stories of your own.
See our previous review of another biography by Susanna Reich, Minette’s Feast: The Delicious Story of Julia Child and Her Cat.
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Looking for more children’s nonfiction books? Try the Nonfiction Monday blog.