WOODY GUTHRIE

AMERICAN BALLADEER

An illuminating, solidly documented portrait of this country's most influential white folk singer. Focusing on the people and events that shaped Guthrie's music and political consciousness, Yates (Zora Neale Hurston: A Storyteller's Life, 1991) follows her subject through the boom-and- bust oil towns of Oklahoma and Texas, the natural horrors of the Dust Bowl and the economic horrors endured by California migrant workers. Guthrie's personal life was marred by tragedy (in separate accidents he, his father, his sister, and a daughter were seriously—fatally in the case of the last two—burned) and characterized by a casual willingness to leave wives and children behind; his work—recordings, diaries, letters, newspaper articles and, most of all, legions of plainspoken lyrics—effectively captured both his outrage at social injustice and his unshakable confidence in the strength of the human spirit. Most of the quoted lines (which include draft versions of several songs) go beyond sound bite status to give readers a good sense of how Guthrie spoke, wrote, and thought. The author bases her account on an array of interviews, memoirs and secondary sources, all carefully cited, and closes with the complete lyrics to ``This Land Is Your Land.'' Exemplary work, even better than Yurchenko's A Mighty Hard Road (McGraw Hill, 1970). (b&w photographs, index, end notes, chronology, bibliography, discography) (Biography. 12+)

Pub Date: March 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-9623380-0-1

Page Count: 159

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1995

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Appealing, accessible stories for teens interested in the arts that will tempt them to become avid readers.

RAW TALENT

From the Orca Limelights series

Paisley McFarland is a freshman in high school who loves to sing but has horrible stage fright in this entry in a performing-arts themed series for reluctant readers.

When a local farm announces a talent show fundraiser, Paisley signs up to sing, but will she be able to pull it off? Like many young people, Paisley is also fighting her mother’s expectations of what she “should” be doing—in her case, singing classical choir pieces rather than pop music. Her best friend, Jasmeer Sharma-Smith, believes in her and convinces the famous actress and singer Maxine Gaston to coach Paisley and help with her performance anxiety. Her private lessons help give her the confidence to go onstage at the upcoming event, but Paisley also has to deal with bullying from Cadence Wang, another student singer. Much like in real life, the negative behavior is not neatly resolved. Paisley is implied white; diversity is indicated through characters’ names. In Offbeat by Megan Clendenan, Rose Callaghan is a Celtic fiddle player who hopes to win a folk festival competition in order to prove to her lawyer mother how serious she is about music she loves rather than the classical music her mother wants her to play. Things go awry when her special violin, left to her by her deceased father, breaks—will she still be able to perform well? The book follows a white default.

Appealing, accessible stories for teens interested in the arts that will tempt them to become avid readers. (Fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4598-1834-7

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Orca

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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FIDDLIN' SAM

In a family memoir of the most affecting kind, readers are invited to a long-ago time in the Ozark Mountains and the story of a musician who owned “the clothes on his back and a fine old lionhead fiddle.” Fiddlin’ Sam is the inheritor of the peripatetic, minstrel’s life of his father, who taught Sam his art, saying, “This ain’t a gift, Son. It’s a loan. You gotta pass the music along.” Sam accepts the food that appreciative people give him, but politely refuses their offer of a bed. When a rattler bites him, Sam fears he has failed his calling; the music will die with him. In the feverish time that follows, someone takes care of him, a young man whom Sam hopes will take up the gift and carry it along—but the boy has other plans. In the years that follow, Sam meets another young man on the road who reminds him of the first one, and, indeed, is his son. Their path together lasts long enough for Sam to pass along his gift and its joys and burdens before he dies. An endpiece dedication allows readers to glimpse aspects of the story that are based in truth. A rhythmic refrain underscores the emotions of the story, and even acts as the vehicle of the ascension of Sam’s soul at death. Gerig’s watercolors deliver the scenic beauty of the region and carry their own version of a familial tribute. (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 1999

ISBN: 0-87358-742-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Rising Moon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1999

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