A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Introduces kids to the noted 20th-century African American singer-songwriter whose songs were covered by Bob Dylan, Jerry Garcia, and Joan Baez, among others, and the classic folk song "Freight Train," which she wrote as a little girl. Libba is, first and foremost, a story about music and its life-changing relationship with the title character, rather than the historical times she lived in. But the author's afterword tells Elizabeth Cotten's life story in more detail and offers plentiful references to performance videos, interviews, articles, and more.
Music can change your life. The connection between music, musician, and listener can have positive ripple effects. Acts of kindness can bring kindred spirits together. Hard work can help you get a guitar (or other things you really want).
Positive Role Models
So drawn to music that she sneaks into her brother's room and teaches herself to play his guitar "upside-down and backwards" because she's left-handed, young Elizabeth has plenty of determination, a strong work ethic, and early songwriting talent. People exclaim "DANG!" when they hear young Elizabeth play and realize she's really good. As an adult, she's warm, kindhearted, holds her own in a house full of eccentric musical geniuses, and bakes legendary cakes. Other characters also shine, especially Elizabeth's long-suffering older brother, Claude, whose guitar strings she keeps breaking, and Ruth Seeger (stepmother of Pete Seeger), who becomes Elizabeth's employer and friend.
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.
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.
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