cover image Pete Seeger's Storytelling Book

Pete Seeger's Storytelling Book

Seeger, Pete Seeger. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $30 (288pp) ISBN 978-0-15-100370-9

Claiming that America is becoming ""a nation of spectators"" blind to their own folklore, Seeger presents this earnest collection to catalyze our collective imagination and resuscitate the country's oral tradition. The 80-year-old singer/songwriter/activist smartly anticipates that his audience (modern, pressed-for-time parents) will be daunted, so he offers helpful, if commonsensical, advice: start with something familiar (folktales, the Bible, Shakespeare), do not worry about structure or length and be spontaneous. ""What's important is to create an atmosphere of sharing,"" he rightly observes in the introduction. ""Kids are more interested in you than the plot."" With the help of freelance writer and poet DuBois Jacobs, Seeger recounts more than 25 of his favorite tales in their entirety--some from American history (""The Emancipation Proclamation""), others from late-19th- and early-20th-century rounds and lullabies (""Dick Whittington and His Cat""), as well as selections from Seeger's and his father's oeuvres (""The Intelligent Lightbulbs""). All of them resonate with the balladeer's worldly voice and, of course, have a moral--usually about the power of music or the importance of hard work--that children will be able to grasp and apply to real life. In the case of stories based on traditional songs (e.g., ""Sam, the Whaler"" goes along with the 19th-century whaling song, ""The Hudson Whalers""), Seeger has also reproduced a few bars of music. A nice touch is chapter six, the closing section, which consists solely of story beginnings that Seeger urges readers to build on. (Sept.)