The first biography of Pete Seeger for young readers!

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Overview

Sing it! A Biography of Pete Seeger, presents the life of Pete Seeger as a tapestry of music woven with activism, conveying not only Pete’s contribution to music, but through it. This chapter book for middle grade readers is more than the biography of an iconic folk singer; it is the story of a great American—truly, the poster child for activism—who filled his toolbox with songs and humbly set out to repair whatever in the world was broken. Pete Seeger sang, wrote, taught and attached himself to causes ranging from social justice to worm farming, galvanizing people to action through songs and singing together. Readers will be surprised and delighted to discover how many familiar songs, projects and events can be traced to Pete, and how, despite his shunning of the spotlight, he was rooted at the center of so many pivotal twentieth century movements. Not only will readers recognize the significance of Pete’s life—and take away a good chunk of American history in the process—but, through Pete’s model, will be inspired to reflect on their own power to make change.

How this book came to be

In 2009, I received a postcard from Pete Seeger: I’d be very proud if you’d   write a bio for
8-10 year-old kid
s. Call peteBanjoKidPicLittleJpeg me. This was the beginning of our collaboration on the first biography of Pete Seeger for young readers.

My connection to Pete began with the play that I had written for my third grade music students to perform in honor of his upcoming ninetieth birthday. What better time than this auspicious occasion to introduce the kids to Pete’s life and work? Maybe my 8-year-olds would even begin to see their own potential to take action and make change. As the kids began to realize how many songs, events and well-known people had some connection to Pete, the project took on a life of its own, and by the time we were ready to put on the play, we had a bunch of serious Pete Seeger groupies on our hands!

“Let’s invite him!” insisted the children. Uh-oh, he’ll never come, not now, I heard my adult voice say. But we sent the invitation, and three days before the event, my phone rang. I recognized the gravelly voice: “What’s this about a play?” Only a few weeks before his huge birthday celebration at Madison Square Garden, Pete Seeger took the time to make the two-hour trip from Beacon to New York City in order to see a bunch of third graders put on a play. Miraculous, but SO in character. That insatiable curiosity and urge to be wherever something interesting was happening, along with his commitment to children—it all made sense. When the play was over, Pete picked up is banjo, made his way down the aisle, surveyed the assembled  parents, teachers and children and said, “This has been an extraordinary day for me.” Extraordinary indeed.

Afterwards, Pete, ever the fixer, offered to edit the play so that it could be performed at schools around the city. I had another idea: A book could pass his legacy on to a wider audience of young readers. I proposed the idea to Pete, he sent me a thumbs-up postcard and we were on our way. Our work together included hours on the phone, the voice of Pete Seeger all to myself, sharing stories about Woody Guthrie, the Clearwater, building the cabin in the woods. We mailed the manuscript back and forth: I wrote, Pete edited, I rewrote, he edited his edits. At a lunch he prepared at his house—boiled potatoes and humus left over from a peace rally—Pete wrote a letter to readers that begins If there is a world here in a hundred years it will be because millions of people get involved in trying to save it. Never has a generation been more in need of such inspiration.

After Pete passed away in 2014, I decided that it was more important than ever to pass his legacy along. As I transformed the book into one for older readers, I imagined Pete’s voice on my shoulder critiquing, guiding, and coaxing the book into its final form. Seven Stories Press’s children’s imprint, Triangle Square, is the perfect home for Sing It!. The publisher’s mission is so in sync with that of Pete that we see this partnership as a match made in
heaven.

I love hearing from people with comments, questions, suggestions, an interesting anecdote about Pete, an invitation to do a book presentation, or just a hello!

Please contact me at mdanzigerNYC@gmail.com

My author website will be up and running soon.

Stay tuned!