Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Parents' Choice Awards : Books : Non-Fiction
Woody Guthrie: Poet of the People

Woody Guthrie: Poet of the People

Fall 2002 Non-Fiction
Ages: Infant - 18 yrs.
Author: Bonnie Christensen
ISBN: 0-375-81113-3
Hardcover Price: $16.95
Woody Guthrie was the compassionate observer who sang the pain and anguish of migrant farmers, miners and the homeless poor; he was the fierce activist who sang the hope of the fledgling union movement and the shame of greed and injustice. He was the country bard who sang shared memories of a homespun past and the captured moments of an ever-changing present.

And, last, but by far not least, he was a father who sang the smiles, tears and simple pleasures of the everyday of childhood.

In her resonant book, author and artist Bonnie Christensen celebrates each facet of this legendary troubadour in powerful woodcut-like illustrations and clear-eyed, expressive text.

Across the top of each page, all seven verses of "This Land Is Your Land," the Guthrie song that became an American anthem, are part of the design of Christensen's bold, ink-rich images; the lyrics flow through a story that reflects this country's own past time of sunshine, Depression-Era shadow and hopeful dawn.

In her vivid illustrations, blocks of black ink add resonance to a bleak migrant tent camp, a family's valiant campfire in a lonely railyard, a farm's drought-ravaged field. Black curves gently around the shapes of a bird, flowers in a vase and Guthrie's guitar. Swaths of stippled black and ragged black brush strokes form the hard roads Guthrie walked and a factory's drifting smoke. Black makes the rich green of a car and the whiteness of a tiny dog's ear and tail-in view from behind a rust-brown fire hydrant-spring from the page to underscore the uplift of Guthrie's playful children's songs.

It's a life told with dignity and eloquent simplicity, reaching out to both children and adults, and in so crafting it, Christensen has created a fitting tribute to a "poet of the people," whose words and music still reach out to hearts and minds, young and old.

Lynne Heffley   ©2002 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.

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