Libba: The Magnificent Musical Life of Elizabeth Cotten by Laura Veirs

1st Review and Header Photo by Susan D.~ originally on Instagram

Thanks to the @kidlitexchange network for the review copy of this book – all opinions are our own.

Libba: The Magnificent Musical Life of Elizabeth Cotton
By Laura Veirs; Illustrated by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh
(January 16th 2018 ~ Chronicle Books)

✨“Libba heard Music Everywhere” is the opening line of this memorable picture book IMG_5396biography that tells us the remarkable story of renowned African American songwriter and musician, Libba Cotten. Libba picked up her brother’s guitar, played it upside down and composed the well known folk song Freight Train before she was eleven years old! Unfortunately, life got in the way and Libba stopped playing. She became a wife, a mother and finally a housekeeper for Pete and Ruth Crawford Seeger. She was a hard worker and did an amazing job, but all the while she was cleaning, cooking and caring for the children, she was listening. And what she heard were musicians like Woody Guthrie and Muddy Waters. Until one day, she HAD to pick up a guitar and play. With the Seegers help and support, Libba began to play in public and soon was known the world over.

I love reading picture biographies and this is a special one. I learn about so many people who have made important contributions to our world and deserve to be remembered and appreciated. I was fascinated to learn the story of Libba Cotten, a truly amazing musician I wasn’t familiar with before I read Laura Veirs’ biography. The muted illustrations provide a gentle view of Libba’s world from the time she was a child through her performances the world over in the theaters of New York, London and Rome. They help us to understand Libba’s determination, her kindness and her love of music. This is a picture book biography that definitely needs to find a space on the shelves of elementary school collections.

And ANOTHER review of this one!

Review and photo by Laurie P. on Instagram

Interest Level: K-3; Reading Level: 3.5

IMG_5464 Do you hear music everywhere you go? Do you hear it in everyday chores and activities? Elizabeth Cotten did! She heard it in the water she brought to her mother, in the ax she used to chop wood, and in the freight trains that passed by. She loved music so much that one day she snuck into her brothers room when he was at work to play his guitar. The only problem was that her brother, Claude, was right-handed and Libba was left-handed. This sure didn’t stop Libba! She just flipped the guitar upside down and played it backwards. When Claude moved out to get a job, Libba had to work extra chores to earn enough money to buy a guitar of her own. By the age of eleven, Libba had written her first song, Freight Train. However, life went on and Libba grew older and quit playing the guitar, that is until she got a job as the Seeger’s housekeeper. Read this beautifully illustrated and written book to find out what happened to Libba and how she became one of the most well-known folk singers.

This book is beyond amazing! The story is written in such an incredibly easy way to read and the illustrations are just gorgeous. I have never heard of Elizabeth Cotten until I read this book, but now I am a big fan! Do not miss reading this book!!


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