We all remember Pete Seeger for his courage and his music (equally by turns). What some of us may not know, or may have forgotten, was how prolific the man was in the realm of children's books and media. Sure, some of his literature consisted solely of adaptations of his already existing song repertoire, but Pete also took time to put some real heart and energy into his works for kids (little wonder that his great-niece Laura Vaccaro Seeger is a Caldecott Honor winner in her own right). Miss him? Why not introduce him to your kids. Now has never been a better time. Here's a little list to get you started.
Abiyoyo by Pete Seeger, illustrated by Michael Hays
Where did you first hear Abiyoyo? Was it on an old Pete Seeger record? Did you watch it on Reading Rainbow? Did someone read the book aloud to you in elementary school? Whatever the case, this is Pete's magnum opus. His best known, best loved children's book. Check it out, listen to Pete perform it on DVD, and check out the sequel.
The Deaf Musicians by Pete Seeger and Paul DuBois Jacobs, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie
A winner of the 2007 Schneider Family Book Award (given yearly to a children's book "that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences") here's how School Library Journal described the title: "Christie's snazzy style matches perfectly with the book's vivacity. The expressive faces and bold use of color make the story sing. This is a great read-aloud that begs for enthusiastic performance and audience participation. Both uplifting and inclusive, it is a celebration of music and resilience."
Turn! Turn! Turn! by Pete Seeger, illustrated by Wendy Anderson Halperin
Sure, it's just a picture book based on words from Ecclesiastes circa 262 B.C.E. (translated into English in London in 1607) but don't deny how lovely it is. Halperin was the perfect asrtist to accompany Seeger's text.
I Had a Rooster: A Traditional Folk Song by Pete Seeger, illustated by Laura Vaccaro Seeger (his great niece!)
I love this song! And I'm ashamed to say I didn't even know it was in book form. If you've a baby or toddler, check this one out pronto. It came out in 2001 and is still hugely popular with our patrons. It even comes with a CD!
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and Lots More Learning Fun
All of New York Public Library's branches have regular film showings of classic works of children's literature. Whenever I had a particularly rambunctious group of attendees I'd pull out the old Foolish Frog. Originally written by Pete and published as a picture book with illustrations by Miloslav Jagr, it's been out of print for years and years. Fortunately, it was immortalized with this uniquely catchy little video. It's one of many on this Chicka Chicka Boom Boom collection and the only place you can find it in the NYPL collection. See it now! You'll be humming it for weeks.
Birds, Beasts, Bugs & Fishes, Little & Big
When I was looking for Seeger CDs for my own little one I decided to try my hand with this. The sheer number of songs alone make it worth the price of admission. Old animal songs that you've known for years mixed with brand new ones you've never encountered before.
And while you're enjoying Pete Seeger's works, be sure to also check out our other classic children's music legends like Ella Jenkins, Dan Zanes, Raffi, Sweet Honey in the Rock, Bob McGrath, Jose Luis Orozco, and Hap Palmer.