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 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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The car gets shortchanged, but comparing the divergent career paths of its (putative) two riders may give readers food for...



A custom-built, bulletproof limo links two historical figures who were pre-eminent in more or less different spheres.

Garland admits that a claim that FDR was driven to Congress to deliver his “Day of Infamy” speech in a car that once belonged to Capone rests on shaky evidence. He nonetheless uses the anecdote as a launchpad for twin portraits of contemporaries who occupy unique niches in this country’s history but had little in common. Both were smart, ambitious New Yorkers and were young when their fathers died, but they definitely “headed in opposite directions.” As he fills his biographical sketches with standard-issue facts and has disappointingly little to say about the car itself (which was commissioned by Capone in 1928 and still survives), this outing seems largely intended to be a vehicle for the dark, heavy illustrations. These are done in muted hues with densely scratched surfaces and angled so that the two men, the period backgrounds against which they are posed, and the car have monumental looks. It’s a reach to bill this, as the author does, a “story about America,” but it does at least offer a study in contrasts featuring two of America’s most renowned citizens. Most of the human figures are white in the art, but some group scenes include a few with darker skin.

The car gets shortchanged, but comparing the divergent career paths of its (putative) two riders may give readers food for thought. (timeline, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-88448-620-6

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Tilbury House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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A stereotype about people with disabilities is shattered by this introduction to a dance company known as Dancing Wheels, a group composed of “sit down” and “stand-up” dancers. The story begins with Mary Fletcher-Verdi, born with spina bifida, a condition that causes weakness in the legs and spine. Mary always wanted to dance, and, encouraged by a family who focused on what she could do rather than what she couldn’t, she studied the art and eventually formed a mixed company, some who dance on their legs, and some who dance in wheelchairs. What she accomplished can be seen in this photo journal of the group’s dance workshop in which beginners and experienced dancers study and rehearse. Along the way, McMahon (One Belfast Boy, 1999, etc.) intersperses the history of the group, some details about the dancers, their families, and the rehearsal process that leads up to the final performance. Three children are featured, Jenny a wheelchair dancer, Devin, her stand-up partner, and Sabatino, the young son of Mary’s partner. The focus on these youngsters gives the reader a sense of their personalities and their lives with their families. Godt’s (Listen for the Bus, not reviewed, etc.) color photographs detail every aspect of the story and show the dancers at home and in rehearsal, interacting with each other, having fun, and finally performaning. They convey the dancer’s sense of joy as well as the commitment to the dance as an art form felt by the adult directors and teachers. An excellent book for helping children and adults expand their understanding about the abilities of the “disabled.” (Nonfiction. 7-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-395-88889-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2000

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