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A fine introduction to a musical icon.

Silvey examines the life of Pete Seeger, whose folk music and social activism brought both worldwide acclaim and a decade of government persecution.

Born into a privileged family in 1919, Pete attended boarding schools from third grade, isolated from his divorced parents and family. He read voraciously and incubated his interests in the outdoors, journalism, art, and music; a high school teacher introduced him to the banjo. After dropping out of Harvard, Seeger pursued a winding path that included performing children’s concerts and cataloging folk music at the Library of Congress. The straightforward narrative chronicles Pete’s musical arc—from hardscrabble touring with Woody Guthrie and the Almanac Singers to the phenomenal success of the Weavers, who introduced Americans to folk and world music. Silvey links Seeger’s music with his commitment to social causes, from workers’ rights and civil rights to the antiwar and environmental movements. She skillfully illuminates Seeger’s 10-year ordeal during the tenure of the House Un-American Activities Committee. Surveilled, blacklisted, subpoenaed, arrested, tried, and convicted, the former Communist Party member was vindicated on appeal in 1962. Silvey’s afterword frankly acknowledges Seeger as a personal hero, avowing that her biographer’s neutrality was trumped by her research into Seeger’s unjust treatment by the FBI and HUAC.

A fine introduction to a musical icon. (photographs, quotation source notes, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-547-33012-9

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: May 13, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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In no particular order and using no set criteria for his selections, veteran sportscaster Berman pays tribute to an arbitrary gallery of baseball stars—all familiar names and, except for the Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez, retired from play for decades. Repeatedly taking the stance that statistics are just numbers but then reeling off batting averages, home-run totals, wins (for pitchers) and other data as evidence of greatness, he offers career highlights in a folksy narrative surrounded by photos, side comments and baseball-card–style notes in side boxes. Readers had best come to this with some prior knowledge, since he casually drops terms like “slugging percentage,” “dead ball era” and “barnstorming” without explanation and also presents a notably superficial picture of baseball’s history—placing the sport’s “first half-century” almost entirely in the 1900s, for instance, and condescendingly noting that Jackie Robinson’s skill led Branch Rickey to decide that he “was worthy of becoming the first black player to play in the majors.” The awesome feats of Ruth, Mantle, the Gibsons Bob and Josh, Hank Aaron, Ty Cobb and the rest are always worth a recap—but this one’s strictly minor league. (Nonfiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4022-3886-4

Page Count: 138

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2010

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Unassuming of aspect but judicious and illuminating of content.

Modest production values add appeal to this carefully researched account of “a life of courage, passion, and adventure.”

Young readers already have a plethora of Tubman titles to choose from, including the author’s own 1992 Picture Book of Harriet Tubman for younger readers, illustrated by Samuel Byrd. This one, though, offers an unusually coherent picture of her character as well as her place within both the major events of her times and the work of the Underground Railroad. Laying stress on her religious faith and her selfless nature, Adler covers her career as Union spy and nurse as well as “conductor” in deep-enough detail to make mention of her later involvement in a money swindle and her ambiguous relationship with “niece” (daughter? kidnap victim?) Margaret Stewart. Sheaves of small, period black-and-white portrait photos or engravings, plus occasional atrocity reports or editorials clipped from African-American newspapers give the pages a staid look overall. This is underscored by a typeface that, intentionally or otherwise, sometimes looks battered or too-lightly inked. Tubman’s exploits and struggles make absorbing reading nonetheless.

Unassuming of aspect but judicious and illuminating of content. (endnotes, bibliography, personal note about the author’s family in the Civil War) (Biography. 10-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-8234-2365-1

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2013

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