A biography of folk-music icon Elizabeth Cotten.
Cotten grew up hearing music in everything—everyday things. She would sneak her brother’s guitar and play the sounds she heard, unconventionally playing the guitar upside down and backward—a way that made sense to her left-handedness. Though she eventually earned enough for her own guitar, as the years passed, Cotten didn’t have time for music. One cleverly rendered illustration depicts various stages in Cotten’s life in the cars of a passing freight train, explaining how her musical passion was (temporarily) derailed. When Cotten, now a grandmother working in a department store, encounters Ruth Crawford Seeger, Cotten becomes the musical family’s housekeeper. One day, when Cotten picks up a guitar again—still playing upside down and backward—it’s clear her talent and passion have not abandoned her…they’ve only lain dormant all those years. The Seegers use their privilege to help, and Cotten’s talent is appreciated worldwide. Both endpapers and the book cover put guitar imagery to good use, and lovely graphite illustrations lend the story an old-time–y, country feel—a perfect pairing with Cotton’s folk music.
An inspiring tale of an artist who came into her own later in life than traditional narratives lead readers to believe is normal. (author’s note, works cited) (Picture book/biography. 5-9)