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Review of Listen: How Pete Seeger Got America Singing

Listen: How Pete Seeger Got America Singing
by Leda Schubert; illus. by Raúl Colón
Primary    Porter/Roaring Brook    40 pp.    g
6/17    978-1-62672-250-7    $17.99

This picture-book biography of folk legend Seeger lays out the events of his adult life with a focus not on dry facts but on helping child readers understand his essential spirit. The title repeats throughout (“Listen…Pete sang old songs, / new songs, / old songs with new words, / and songs he made up”) and the text captures the singer’s unmistakable speaking cadence. Schubert outlines Seeger’s singing career with Woody Guthrie, the Weavers, and many others; his participation in marches and protests; and his work, toward the end of his life, to get people to care about cleaning up the Hudson River. She also succinctly sums up the “trouble” he got into: “The House Un-American Activities Committee of the United States Congress / questioned whether Pete was a true American. / Pete said, ‘I love my country very deeply.’” Throughout, Schubert inserts into the text the titles of Seeger’s many songs that fit with whatever he was doing at the time. (“He joined rallies to support the work of unions. ‘Which Side Are You On?’ ‘Joe Hill.’ ‘Union Maid.’”) Colón’s illustrations in his familiar warm style show Pete looking open and engaged with the people who surround him from youth to old age, and lovingly depict the American landscape, too. The thorough back matter includes an author’s note, a detailed timeline, and well-chosen further reading and recordings. An inspiring and heartfelt tribute to, as Schubert calls him, a “true American hero.”

From the May/June 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Susan Dove Lempke About Susan Dove Lempke

Susan Dove Lempke is a Horn Book reviewer and director of the Niles Public Library District in Illinois.

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