Stand Up and Sing! Pete Seeger, Folk Music and the Path to Justice by Susanna Reich is a picture book intended for children in grades 3 through 7. But, like the music and message of Pete Seeger himself, it is really a book for everyone. Adam Gustavson’s beautiful illustrations alone, capturing Seeger throughout his life, make this a book that belongs in every school and public library, and one to be shared and passed down from parent to child.
Add to that the masterful way that Reich tells the story of Pete Seeger’s life and his profound belief in human rights and the power of music to change the world, as well as his steadfast courage to stand up for what he believed was right, and you have an important and timely story.
Yet both the words and the illustrations manage to convey all this without ever being preachy, talking down to children or making Seeger more than what he always wanted to be: a sinple man with a banjo and a head full of songs who loved to sing and entertain people, and maybe bring them all a little closer. A man, who with the faith in human goodness, built a ship with his friends and sailed it on the filthy Hudson River until people were inspired to clean it up.
He is a man children and their parents need to know. Our folk heroes are important and now Pete Seeger is no longer here to spread his message of love, equality, joy and peace for everyone, it is urgent we spread it for him. Which is what Reich and Gustavson do so admirably in this book.
If you are a teacher, this book along with some of Seeger’s music would be perfect for any class concerning the fight for the Unions, against McCarthyism, Civil Rights, the folk movement of the ’50s and ’60s, or the Vietnam War. If you have children between the age of 8 and 12, buy one for them and one for their school. They will love it, and so will you. Seeger was a man of the people, and this is a book for the people.