Listen: How Pete Seeger Got America Singing Reviews

UPDATE TIME: 2017-09-14 
Review Score: 5 out of 5 star From 0 user ratings

" Great juvenile biography of Pete. Covers the main points beautifully. Lovely illustrations by Raul Colon. " said.

" An admiring, affectionately written introduction to Seeger. " said.

" A beautifully written biography on singer Pete Seeger. Kids probably won't pick this one up on their own but if a parent or grandparent who is a fan introduces them, I think they will learn a lot about the singer and about American history. Excellent back matter. " said.

"Thanks to the @kidlitexchange network for the review copy of this book - all opinions are my own.

My third-grade students loved this biography of Pete Seeger. While many of them were familiar with his songs, they didn't know the story of his life or the impact he had on American civic engagement.

My students loved hearing how Leda Schubert was impacted by Pete Seeger's music in the author's note. They also couldn't help but sing along when Schubert mentioned the names of songs they knew!

The main takeaways from this picture book include the power of standing together, the importance of speaking up, and the magic of stopping to listen. This is a great addition to any classroom biography section.
" said.

"How wonderful to have a partial picture book biography about social activist Pete Seeger who used his songs to rouse others to stand up and speak out for what was right! The illustrations are sun-drenched and show Seeger as he is singing and strumming. The author uses repetition through the word "Listen" to encourage readers to pause, think, and pay attention to the story being told here. In many respects, that technique is effective, particularly since so many words, sounds, images, and messages assault our senses today, and it's a good reminder for readers to realize that the lyrics in songs often have significance. Not only does music make us feel good, but it may stir our souls in certain instances. Readers follow Seeger along as he traveled across the country with Woody Guthrie and then when he joined a band who sang several familiar songs. When he was investigated for alleged Communist activities, things got hard for Pete, and it was hard for him to find any gigs. Eventually, it was decided that he was not guilty of the allegations, and he became deeply involved in the various protest movements in the 1960s, using his songs to raise awareness about war and peace and social justice. Somehow his songs touched the hearts of listeners, who raised their own voices in song even while feeling that they were part of a community who cared about the world around them. A timeline and an Author's Note provide additional information about this man who spent his life singing and inspiring others to sing. While it isn't necessary that all songs have a message, reading this book reminded me of the impact songs can have to inspire social change and to link those involved in various social movements. There is little doubt that every reader out there knows quite well some of the songs Pete Seeger sang all over this land. This title is an excellent addition to a collection on musicians and one on social activists." said.

"There are two new books out this year on Pete Seeger. One is for older children (Stand Up and Sing: Pete Seeger, Folk Music, and The Path to Justice by Susanna Reich), and this one is for younger kids. Interestingly, both authors saw Seeger perform when they were young, and were very influenced by him.

Leda Schubert writes at the beginning of this book:

There was nobody like Pete Seeger.
Wherever he went, he got people singing.”

She tells a bit about his favorite songs, and about his social activism:

Pete participated his whole life.
He led marches to end wars;
He stood on peace lines in cold and snow, heat and rain.”

She explains how he traveled the country with his good friend and fellow singer and activist Woody Guthrie. He was called before The House Un-American Activities Committee of the United States Congress and questioned about his protests. She reports:

“Pete said, ‘I love my country very deeply,’
Offered to sing a song,
And stood by his First Amendment right,
The right of free speech.”

Seeger was then part of the singing group "The Weavers," and the government accusations cost them concert bookings and television appearances. But Seeger just kept on traveling, and kept on singing. And he didn’t just say things, Schubert writes, he did things. As the Chicago Tribune reported in his obituary:

"Seeger became a beacon to many artists on the emerging folk scene of the ‘60s, co-founding the Newport Folk Festival in 1959. 'We all owe our careers to him,” Joan Baez said. The Kingston Trio's version of Seeger's anti-war song 'Where Have All the Flowers Gone?' and Peter, Paul and Mary's take on 'If I Had a Hammer' were early ‘60s pop hits."

Schubert writes in her Author’s Note at the end of the book:

“Over the course of his ninety-four years, Pete Seeger sang so much, did so much, wrote so much, spoke so much, and influenced so many people that at times he seemed to be everywhere at once. He recorded more than fifty albums . . . and devoted much of his life and music to the fights for justice, peace, equality, and a cleaner environment. . . . . He believed in the power of community and he created communities everywhere he went.”

The New York Times wrote in his obituary:

“For Mr. Seeger, folk music and a sense of community were inseparable, and where he saw a community, he saw the possibility of political action.

In his hearty tenor, Mr. Seeger, a beanpole of a man who most often played 12-string guitar or five-string banjo, sang topical songs and children’s songs, humorous tunes and earnest anthems, always encouraging listeners to join in. His agenda paralleled the concerns of the American left: He sang for the labor movement in the 1940s and 1950s, for civil rights marches and anti-Vietnam War rallies in the 1960s, and for environmental and antiwar causes in the 1970s and beyond. “We Shall Overcome,” which Mr. Seeger adapted from old spirituals, became a civil rights anthem.”

The book concludes with a timeline, endnotes, selected biography, list of books for children, and perhaps most importantly, a list of recommended recordings.

The artwork by the prolific Puerto Rican American illustrator Raúl Colón employs his trademark style of watercolor washes, colored pencils, grainy paper, and an etching instrument to achieve an effect somewhere between intaglio and pointillism. The muted palette suggests a time in the past.

Evaluation: Both of the new books out on Seeger are lovely, and suggest that there are many different ways to be active on social issues. I hope parents will supplement the reading with a selection of Seeger’s songs. Children have always loved them, and of course the adults may have their own memories associated with his music.
" said.

" A lovely book about Pete Seeger and how he led others to sing along with him. (There is a history timeline in the back, too.) The only thing that would have improved it is including the lyrics to the songs instead of just the titles. Of course, then it would have been a much thicker book! " said.

" Just a few months ago, I read and shared Stand Up and Sing!: Pete Seeger, Folk Music & The Path To Justice by Susanna Reich. I enjoyed it thoroughly, and now in the past day, have read this second picture book about whom former President Obama called the "tuning fork" of our time. This book tells the story of Pete's life with each page of text ending in a song or a list of songs that he wrote and sang. There is a brief part of the hardest part of his life when he was blacklisted during the McCarthy era, but he kept singing and kept inspiring people to gather, sing and sing for causes. I had the pleasure of taking my young children to see him one magical evening. He came off the stage and sang to them, and others on the front row. I will never forget it. The book's illustrations are colorful muted paintings in Raul Colón's unique style. Leda Schubert has added extra information in the back matter: a lovely afterword about her relationship with Pete, a timeline, endnotes, recommended books and recordings. It's a terrific addition to books about Pete Seeger." said.

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