Libba; The Magnificent Musical Life of Elizabeth Cotten

Written by: Laura Veirs

Illustrated by: Tatyana Fazlalizadeh

For ages: 4-10 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Women in Music, Historical Figures.

Summary: Libba was a young girl that heard music everywhere.  Sometimes she snuck into her older brother’s room and played his guitar.  He was right-handed, and Libba was left-handed so she turned the guitar upside down and backwards to play.  One day he moved out, so Libba did extra chores to buy one of her own.  Soon, she was writing songs and wasn’t even a teenager yet!  Unfortunately, life got ahold of Libba and she stopped playing music for years.  One day when she was much older, she found a lost girl in a store and helped the girl find her mother.  Her mother turned out to be Ruth Crawford Seeger, and began to work as their housekeeper.  Libba loved the musical family’s home filled with children and musicians!  One evening she picked up a guitar, upside-down and backwards, and began to play once again.  Suddenly, everyone in the home was listening to Libba sing the songs she wrote so many years ago.  The Seeger family helped Libba begin to tour playing her music, and she became very successful even recording music when she was in her eighties!

In the back of the book, there is an extensive Author’s Note with more information about Libba’s life and fame.  This book is great for young children learning about a variety of topics- people of color, musicians, strong women, so many more!

Reflection Questions:

  • What is an instrument that you’ve always wanted to play?
  • Do you know anyone that plays that instrument?
  • Do you think Libba missed playing guitar when she wasn’t playing it?
  • What is something you love to do more than anything else?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Listen to some of Libba’s music!  What do you like about it?
  • Learn about more musicians from Libba’s era.  Do you think they sound similar to Libba?
  • Visit a music store that repairs instruments.  Learn about how different instruments are made, and how they get fixed when needed.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

laura-veirs
Photo by Jason Quigley

Laura Veirs is an American singer-songwriter. She is known for her folk/alternative country records and live performances. She has recorded over 10 albums, including her 2011 album Tumble Bee: Laura Veirs Sings Folk Songs for Children. The album presented mostly traditional songs, and featured an array of guest musicians, including Colin Meloy, Jim James and Bela Fleck. Tumble Bee won a Parents’ Choice Award in 2012. In early 2018 Chronicle Books published her first picture book, Libba: The Magnificent Musical Life of Elizabeth Cotten. It’s a story about folk music legend Elizabeth Cotten (aka “Libba”) and was illustrated by NYC-based artist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh. Libba was a Junior Library Guild selection and received the Parents’ Choice Award.

Tatyana FazlalizadehTatyana Fazlalizadeh is a Black/Iranian visual artist and Oklahoma City native. She is a painter whose work ranges from the gallery to the streets, using visual art to address the daily oppressive experiences of marginalized people through beautifully drawn and painted portraits. Her street art series, Stop Telling Women to Smile, can be found on walls across the globe. She is currently the inaugural Public Artist in Residence for the New York City Commission on Human Rights, a year long residency that will present the experiences of anti-black racism and sexual harassment experienced by New Yorkers through public art. Tatyana has been profiled by the New York Times, NPR, MSNBC, the New Yorker, Time Magazine, and listed as one of Brooklyn’s most influential people by Brooklyn Magazine. She is a 2015 Forbes 30 Under 30 recipient. She has lectured at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Brooklyn Museum, New Orleans Contemporary Arts Center, several universities including Stanford, Brown, USC, and Pratt Institute. Tatyana’s work can currently be seen on Spike Lee’s Netflix series, She’s Gotta Have It, for which she is also the show’s Art Consultant. She is working on her first book, Stop Telling Women to Smile, with Seal Press. She currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s