Posted by Rebecca G. Aguilar, M.Ed. on June 24, 2016
Let Your Voice Be Heard: The Life and Times of Pete Seeger
By Anita Silvey
Publisher: Clarion Books
Publication date: 8/2/2016
The presidential campaign of Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders has been historic for making socially conscious politics acceptable in America again. What can be said about this exciting new development? Are young people being sincerely moved by ideas that challenge the status quo or that inspire support of important causes?
What kinds of reading can we recommend to aspiring idealists, protestors and activists?
Anita Silvey, author of The Plant Hunters and Untamed: The Wild Life of Jane Goodall, has written a new book that might serve that particular purpose. Let Your Voice Be Heard: The Life and Times of Pete Seeger, slated for release in early August, is the absorbing biography of an iconic folk musician, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and Grammy award winner, who championed such causes as the environment, peace activism and workers’ rights,
Readers ages 10 to 12 will discover why Seeger’s interpretation of “We Shall Overcome” became the identifying song of the Civil Rights Movement and how he came to lead a Vietnam War protest crowd in the chant, “All we are saying… is give peace a chance.” And “Turn, Turn, Turn,” a song he adapted from Ecclesiastes, became a beautiful elegy to mark the turbulent 1960s. (The 1964 recording by Judy Collins has to be the most poignant!)
“Pete Seeger possessed endless enthusiasm for many different things. He loved painting, particularly watercolors. He played the ukulele and the banjo. And he loved to write. His problem would be focus. What should he choose as a way to spend his life, when so many things interested him?” (p. 18)
Silvey details Seeger’s youth as a voracious reader/writer and covers his service in the U.S. Army, his road trip with Woody Guthrie and the hit songs that would bring about the revival of American folk music. She also writes at length about his sloop Clearwater fundraisers to clean up the polluted Hudson River as well as the protest activities that prompted FBI monitoring and a subpoena from the House Un-American Activities Committee.
Vivid photos in Let Your Voice Be Heard document Seeger’s career and archive the joy he could express performing solo, duo with “Lead Belly” Ledbetter or ensemble with the Almanac Singers.
What about the folk art cover design? Gorgeous.
Let Your Voice Be Heard can be a helpful research resource for middle grades on the topics of folk music/musicians, the history of American activism, the 1960s. Silvey’s upcoming biography about Pete Seeger will be an excellent addition to classroom sets or school library shelves and an inspiring field guide for changing the world.
Anita Silvey’s brilliant career in children’s books spans 30 years, including 11 years as editor in chief at the Horn Book Magazine. She is also the author of 100 Best Books for Children and The Book-A-Day Almanac.
Clarion Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, publishes quality picture books, nonfiction and fiction for children.