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WOODY GUTHRIE by Bonnie Christensen


Poet of the People

by Bonnie Christensen & illustrated by Bonnie Christensen

Pub Date: Oct. 9th, 2001
ISBN: 0-375-81113-3
Publisher: Knopf

This moving biography honors the life and work of the legendary folk singer who celebrated the lives of working people all over the US. Guthrie, born in Oklahoma in 1912, came from a poor family filled with music, but devastated by death and illness. As a youngster, he absorbed the sounds of country living and the traditional music of Oklahoma and Texas. Later, during the Great Depression, he used these memories to become a popular voice for the dust bowl refugees, writing and singing about them and performing on radio in Los Angeles. He spent years moving from place to place in support of the union movement, migrant field workers, and coal miners. Christensen (Moon Over Tennessee, 1999, etc.) writes briefly of his marriages, his children, and his eventual tragic death from Huntington’s disease, but the thrust is his devotion to the cause of downtrodden workers. The words of his signature song “This Land is Your Land” run along the top of each page and are printed in their entirety at the end along with a timeline and Web site citation. (No bibliography or source notes are included.) Christensen’s text is strong and beautiful, as rich in images as her subject’s music. Through them, the reader will get a wonderful sense of the soul of her subject and his times. Read aloud, this could work for younger readers, but the dramatic mixed media, woodcut-like illustrations in a picture-book format will attract older ones as well. A powerful, lyrical tribute to the musician whose music is so much a part of our lives. (Biography. 8-10)