The Bookworm: Music and mayhem

Terri Schlichenmeyer

“Stand Up and Sing! Pete Seeger, Folk Music, and the Path to Justice”

By Susanna Reich, illustrated by Adam Gustavson, foreword by Peter Yarrow

c.2017, Bloomsbury Children’s Books

$17.99, $23.99 Canada; 48 pages

That’s not fair! Someone else got more than you got. Or they did something you wanted to do, but you couldn’t. It’s not fair! It’s just not right! But maybe, as you’ll see in the new book “Stand Up and Sing!” by Susanna Reich, illustrated by Adam Gustavson, a song might make you feel better.

“Stand Up and Sing! Pete Seeger, Folk Music, and the Path to Justice” author Susanna Reich.

Born nearly 100 years ago, Pete Seeger loved to “toot, shake, and bang” on every musical instrument his mother owned. Pete absolutely loved music!

During his boyhood, life was wonderful: though his parents divorced, Pete had a happy home, a boarding-school education, hobbies and plenty to read, and he had his music. He enjoyed singing with his father and brothers, and he even bought his own banjo with his savings.

He was content, but he clearly saw that other people weren’t so well-off. During the Depression, many workers lost their jobs and folks went hungry. Pete’s family got by – but just barely; unluckier folks coped with hardship by pulling together, and by singing songs about their lives.

“Stand Up and Sing! Pete Seeger, Folk Music, and the Path to Justice” by Susanna Reich, illustrated by Adam Gustavson, foreword by Peter Yarrow.

That impressed Pete a lot, and it made him think. He focused his life on the issues of the day and he lost his college scholarship, so he took up his banjo and played on the street for coins. Soon, he was playing for crowds of workers and their wives, then for students, then for paying audiences who hoped for safer jobs and better pay.

After serving in the military during World War II, Pete and his new wife picked up where they left off, and he “threw himself into the “‘singing union movement.’ ” He loved making a difference, but it wasn’t easy: because of his music, some people questioned his loyalty to America . Still, he never stopped singing for Civil Rights or worker’s rights, and against intolerance, hatred, and unfairness.

He never stopped trying to make the world a better place.

There’s a lot to like inside “Stand Up and Sing!”

Kids who’ve marched in recent rallies or who are mature enough to see injustices will appreciate the story of Pete Seeger, who dedicated his life to creating change. Children who love to sing will see how it can be not just fun, but beneficial, too. And kids who just like art will be delighted at the works of Adam Gustavson.

Those are the best parts of what you’ll get inside this book; indeed, author Susanna Reich tells a good tale. At issue is that it appears to be a picture book for small children, which it absolutely isn’t: Reich’s story is pretty advanced for kids under 12, but children over that age may find its format too babyish. It’s not a chapter book, and half of it consists of pictures. Like a good protest, the over-12 set may resist.

Still, if you can entice an older child to try it, “Stand Up and Sing!” is a great introduction to folk music and the history of protest. Get this book into older kids’ hands, and there’s a pretty fair chance they’ll like it.

"Into the Water” by Paula Hawkins

c.2017, Riverhead Books, $28; 389 pages

c.2017, Doubleday  Canada, $34.95 Canada; 389 pages

Row, row, row your boat. That’s not the only way to get around in the water, but it could be the driest one going gently down the stream. Still, you must do it carefully, carefully, carefully, carefully because, as in the new novel, “Into the Water” by Paula Hawkins, there’s no merrily when someone dies.

“Into the Water” author Paula Hawkins.

Danielle “Nel” Abbott didn’t jump.

Then again, maybe she did. Or maybe she merely got careless at the top of the cliff overlooking the river that locals called the drowning pool, and she slipped. Everybody knew Nel was doing research on the pool and the women who died there through the centuries, beginning with the teenager accused of witchcraft; Nel’s own drowning in the Pool would’ve been the last chapter.

For the people of Beckford, Nel’s death might’ve been just another unfortunate part of the Drowning Pool legend, just a sad single mother who had too much to drink … except that Katie Whittaker went into the river just weeks before. Poor Katie had loaded her backpack with stones, and drowned herself one summer afternoon. Her family, of course, still grieved – as did her best friend, Lena, Nel’s daughter, who knew exactly why it happened.

“Into the Water” by Paula Hawkins.

Jules Abbott hadn’t spoken to her sister in years. She hardly knew Nel anymore, not since they were kids, not since Nel betrayed Jules in the most horrible way. They’d never really been close anyhow, and that estrangement complicated things: as Lena’s next of kin, Jules was faced with raising a 15-year-old she barely knew, a girl who seemed to hate her.

And so Jules began talking to the ghost of her sister. Nickie Sage, the “psychic” in town, said she couldn’t reach Nel clearly, but Jules could. She felt Nel’s presence in the house, in the town, by the river. She could hear Nel’s voice, and the words Nel wrote in her manuscript: “Beckford is not a suicide spot. Beckford is a place to get rid of troublesome women.”

For the first many pages, reading “Into the Water” is a lot like looking up toward the surface from the bottom of a lake: everything’s murky and slow and you really can’t quite make out who or what you’re seeing. Slowly, though (ever-so-slowly), author Paula Hawkins pulls readers up through the depths, character by clue, until we’re grounded and panting from the adrenaline rush that is this novel.

Indeed, it’s difficult to tell which is more heart-pounding: the eerie ghost-filled past that haunts Beckford, or the creepy residents who seem to know a little bit too much about one another. Both, perhaps, added to the universal fear of drowning, make this a novel that will literally keep you guessing (and shivering) until the very last chapter.

You may struggle with the beginning of this book, but stick with it. It takes a while to get settled but once you do, this is the most unsettling book you’ll read this spring. For you, novel lover, reading “Into the Water” is a dream.

The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.