Subtitled “The Magnificent Musical Life of Elizabeth Cotten,” this first picture book by singer-songwriter Laura Veirs, with soft, subtle graphite and digital illustrations by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, tells the story of an American folk music legend. As a little girl of color in the South, Cotten, nicknamed “Libba,” heard music “everywhere”—in the sounds of the river, while chopping wood, and in “the freight trains moving down the tracks.” Because she was left-handed, Libba taught herself to play the guitar “upside down and backwards,” and at age 11 wrote “Freight Train,” destined to become one the country’s most iconic folk songs. But first, as Viers writes in her own musical prose, “time swept Libba up,” and Cotton lost her music for decades. Then, a happenstance involvement with composer Ruth Crawford Seeger and the musical Seeger family led Libba to reclaim the talents that catapulted her late in life to the national and world stage. A comprehensive author’s note fleshes out this fascinating story about an extraordinary musician.
Lynne Heffley ©2018 Parents’ Choice
A freelance writer and editor for the arts and non-profit organizations, Lynne is a former staff writer for the Los Angeles Times, where she established the paper’s first weekly children’s arts and entertainment beat.