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HOW PETE SEEGER GOT AMERICA SINGING

Schubert and Colón ably demonstrate one of their book’s final assertions: “there really was nobody like Pete Seeger.”...

Pete Seeger’s lifelong commitment to songwriting, singing, and activism made him a beloved figure in American music.

“Pete sang old songs, new songs, old songs with new words, and songs he made up.” Schubert intersperses her simple, graceful text with the titles of three dozen familiar songs written or made famous by Pete Seeger, demonstrating how thoroughly Seeger’s music permeates the American folk-singing tradition. Colón’s richly colored and textured full-color illustrations convey the warmth and joy Seeger demonstrated in making and sharing music. Seeger is shown singing with the Weavers and with his friend Woody Guthrie as well as with crowds large and small. The faces of his audiences and singing companions across all the years are diverse. One striking double-page spread following the account of Seeger’s 1957 citation for contempt by the House Un-American Activities Committee subtly conveys the changing landscape and struggles of the laborers Seeger championed. A highway crosses hills where people are working the fields; a large billboard in the foreground advertises a 360-acre golf course down the road. Schubert and Colón capture with affection and respect Seeger’s remarkable lifetime of speaking truth to power through music and engaging the hearts of his audiences. A biographical timeline includes a charming selection from a boyhood letter, contemplating a banjo purchase; the generous resource list includes source notes and recommended recordings.

Schubert and Colón ably demonstrate one of their book’s final assertions: “there really was nobody like Pete Seeger.” (Picture book/biography. 4-9)

Pub Date: June 13, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62672-250-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Neal Porter/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

THERE'S A ROCK CONCERT IN MY BEDROOM

Nice enough but not worth repeat reads.

Emma deals with jitters before playing the guitar in the school talent show.

Pop musician Kevin Jonas and his wife, Danielle, put performance at the center of their picture-book debut. When Emma is intimidated by her very talented friends, the encouragement of her younger sister, Bella, and the support of her family help her to shine her own light. The story is straightforward and the moral familiar: Draw strength from your family and within to overcome your fears. Employing the performance-anxiety trope that’s been written many times over, the book plods along predictably—there’s nothing really new or surprising here. Dawson’s full-color digital illustrations center a White-presenting family along with Emma’s three friends of color: Jamila has tanned skin and wears a hijab; Wendy has dark brown skin and Afro puffs; and Luis has medium brown skin. Emma’s expressive eyes and face are the real draw of the artwork—from worry to embarrassment to joy, it’s clear what she’s feeling. A standout double-page spread depicts Emma’s talent show performance, with a rainbow swirl of music erupting from an amp and Emma rocking a glam outfit and electric guitar. Overall, the book reads pretty plainly, buoyed largely by the artwork. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Nice enough but not worth repeat reads. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 29, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35207-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

LITTLE MELBA AND HER BIG TROMBONE

Readers will agree that “Melba Doretta Liston was something special.” (Picture book. 4-8)

Bewitched by the rhythms of jazz all around her in Depression-era Kansas City, little Melba Doretta Liston longs to make music in this fictional account of a little-known jazz great.

Picking up the trombone at 7, the little girl teaches herself to play with the support of her Grandpa John and Momma Lucille, performing on the radio at 8 and touring as a pro at just 17. Both text and illustrations make it clear that it’s not all easy for Melba; “The Best Service for WHITES ONLY” reads a sign in a hotel window as the narrative describes a bigotry-plagued tour in the South with Billie Holiday. But joy carries the day, and the story ends on a high note, with Melba “dazzling audiences and making headlines” around the world. Russell-Brown’s debut text has an innate musicality, mixing judicious use of onomatopoeia with often sonorous prose. Morrison’s sinuous, exaggerated lines are the perfect match for Melba’s story; she puts her entire body into her playing, the exaggerated arch of her back and thrust of her shoulders mirroring the curves of her instrument. In one thrilling spread, the evening gown–clad instrumentalist stands over the male musicians, her slide crossing the gutter while the back bow disappears off the page to the left. An impressive discography complements a two-page afterword and a thorough bibliography.

Readers will agree that “Melba Doretta Liston was something special.” (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: July 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-60060-898-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Lee & Low Books

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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