Libba: The Magnificent Musical Life of Elizabeth Cotten
Written by Laura Veirs
Illustrated by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh
40+ pages – ages 6+
Published by Chronicle Books on January 16, 2018
Opening and Synopsis from Publisher:
Opening- “Libba Cotton heard music everywhere.”
Synopsis- “Elizabeth Cotten was only a little girl when she picked up a guitar for the first time. It wasn’t hers (it was her big brother’s), and it wasn’t strung right for her (she was left-handed). But she flipped that guitar upside down and backwards and taught herself how to play it anyway. By age eleven, she’d written “Freight Train,” one of the most famous folk songs of the twentieth century. And by the end of her life, people everywhere—from the sunny beaches of California to the rolling hills of England—knew her music.”
What I Thought- This was such a powerful, story! Veirs crafts a lyrical picture book, with words bouncing across the page.
Fazlalizadeh’s stunning illustrations perfectly match the story, evoking the feelings of the folk movement and of the time period.
The book details Libba Cotten’s life and how she kept true to the music in her head. The most remarkable aspect that I thought was that she didn’t come to national acclaim until she was in her sixties. Libba didn’t seek to become a musician, but was “discovered” when she became a house keeper for the Seeger family (Pete Seeger a famous folk singer). The Seeger’s knew Libba had a gift to share and that’s when they shared her talents with everyone. There is a lengthy author’s note and references at the back of the book that gives more insight into this amazing woman. I had never hear of Elizabeth Cotten, but now I am glad to learn about this historical figure and get the opportunity to hear her music!
Chronicle books has a teacher’s guide to accompany the book – click HERE
Here is a video of Libba Cotten playing her song “Freight Train” on Pete Seeger’s television show!