A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Libba: The Magnificent Musical Life of Elizabeth Cotten is an engaging introduction to the African American singer-songwriter who wrote the classic folk song "Freight Train" at age 11. Decades of her life between childhood and middle age -- an era that included segregation, the civil rights movement, and other historic developments -- are quickly addressed in a few frames en route to the real story, which is all about music. This may not be surprising, since author Laura Veirs is a noted singer-songwriter herself. Soft, appealing illustrations by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh carry the story along and make the whole book gorgeous.
What's the story?
Growing up in rural North Carolina, young Elizabeth ("LIBBA") Cotten hears music everywhere and just has to play it -- even when that means sneaking into the bedroom of her older, right-handed brother, Claude, and teaching her left-handed self to play his guitar "upside-down and backwards" -- a style she'd keep her whole life. She writes the folk song "Freight Train" at age 11 and leaves music behind for adult responsibilities -- until a kind act reconnects her and her songs with the world.
Is it any good?
Laura Veirs spins a tale of music, determination, and kindness in language simple enough for early readers and lively enough to make it a good choice for reading aloud -- and maybe a singalong or two. Serenely appealing illustrations by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh help tell the story as Libba: The Magnificent Musical Life of Elizabeth Cotten introduces kids to a noted 20th-century African American singer-songwriter (her songs were covered by Bob Dylan, Jerry Garcia, and Joan Baez, among others) and to the classic song she wrote as a little girl.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about songwriting as shown in Libba: The Magnificent Musical Life of Elizabeth Cotten. Where do songs come from? Do you think you'd like to write songs? Where would you start?
Have you and your mom or dad ever gotten separated in a big crowd or in a strange place? How did you find each other and get back together? Did a kind soul help, the way Elizabeth Cotten does in this story?
Do you like the song "Freight Train"? Do you feel like you know more about it when you know about the person who wrote it?
- Author: Laura Veirs
- Illustrator: Tatyana Fazlalizadeh
- Genre: Picture Book
- Topics: Arts and Dance, Great Girl Role Models, History, Music and Sing-Along
- Book type: Non-Fiction
- Publisher: Chronicle Books
- Publication date: January 16, 2018
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 6 - 9
- Number of pages: 40
- Available on: Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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