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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Let Your Voice Be Heard: The Life and Times of Pete Seeger. Written by Anita Silvey. Clarion Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Raincoast. 2016. $25.99 ages 12 and up

"To find the support and direction he needed as a child, Pete Seeger became a voracious reader, searching for information in books. After seeing what titles Pete checked out in the Nyack, New York, public library, a librarian suggested that Pete pick up the novels of Ernest Thompson Seton. Pete began to devour Seton's writings."

Most people recognize Pete Seeger as a folk singer whose impact was keenly felt during both the 20th and early 21st centuries. Many mourned his passing in 2014 at the age of 94. His legacy of bringing music to the people will have to be carried forward by others who share his commitment to social causes and environmental concerns.

Ms. Silvey looks carefully at Pete's life and shares it with a sincere concern to get it right for her intended audience. She begins with early family life, travel, divorce and Pete's separation from family when he was sent to boarding school in third grade. He saw little of either parent as time passed.

He looked to others for needed guidance. Reading made all the difference. He was introduced to the writings of Ernest Thompson Seton and found solace in learning about Native American culture, communal property and sharing. His life course was set.

"I saved my nickels and bought myself enough unbleached muslin
to build a teepee, twelve by twenty-four in size. I pegged it out,
hemmed it up, and laced up the front. I set this out in my grandparents'
cow pasture and had to install a fence around it so the cows didn't break
it down. Slept in it overnight, using spruce branches for a bed. Learned
to cook my food in it on a tiny fire. Later I took my teepee to school and
put it in another pasture, introducing others to the idea of outdoor life.
Living outdoors provided a better education for me than any other school or

She follows the early stories with the further development of his love for the outdoors, writing, art and music. It wasn't until high school that Pete met his first banjo. Finding a focus for his enthusiasm eventually led him to sharing with others the folk music he so loved. And, he got paid to share it! In 1940 he met Woody Gurhrie, an event that changed his life.

Despite hard times and many bumps along the way, Ms. Silvey shows readers how, through touring with Woody and then finding success with the Weavers, Pete continued to care about social justice, in all of its forms. Then, came government branding and a long decade of harassment for his earlier political leanings. He triumphed eventually and moved on to become a musical hero to many, and a
staunch environmentalist at a time when few were worried about the earth's health and what we were doing to make it worse.

His was an oft perplexing life, here told with honor, honesty and as an homage to a personal hero and grand entertainer. The archival photos show a happy, smiling man full of charm and pizzazz who wanted to leave his world a better place than it often was.

"Over time - just as the story of Abiyoyo predicted - people realized that they needed Pete Seeger. They needed him to slay the giants. They needed his integrity and his ability to tell inconvenient truths. They needed him to do what he had been doing all along - singing about freedom and justice.

Just as he had hoped he would in childhood, Pete Seeger became many things in his life. He was an author, an activist, a tireless advocate of human dignity, equal rights, and peace; and above all he gave a voice to the feelings and hopes of people all over the world."

Back matter includes extensive source notes, a bibliography, a list of other media and an index.

Perfect for a class readaloud in science, history, social issues classes. Don't forget to have his music close by.

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