This Land Is Still Your Land and Mine

Woody Guthrie, born 100 years ago on Saturday, rambled his way into history, writing, singing and recording the hopes and frustrations of Americans yearning for a better life, for a more just society. His influence on music and culture reverberates in the lyrics of a host of troubadours, from Bob Dylan to Tracy Chapman, from John Fogerty to Bruce Springsteen. Earlier this year, Springsteen, speaking at the South by Southwest festival in Texas, highlighted Guthrie’s core conviction that “speaking truth to power was not futile.”

That Guthrie believed people of all income levels and even ages could act on that belief is evident in the broad reach of his songs, many of which he wrote specifically for children. An easy and appealing way to pay homage to Woody Guthrie is to share the colorful 2002 edition of This Land Is Your Land, which comes with a CD of nine folk songs sung by Woody and his son Arlo Guthrie.

“This Land’s” iconic words spring to life with Kathy Jakobsen’s folk art, ranging over the redwood forests to the gulf stream waters. Double page spreads display our nation’s varied topography and landmarks — its skyscrapers, its plains, the dusty fields of Oklahoma — throughout the seasons. Many children will recognize such significant sites as the Golden Gate Bridge, Niagara Falls, and Old Faithful.

In the midst of those pages you’ll also see the man himself, always a-wandering with his guitar.

Older readers will gain insight from the forward written by Woody’s daughter, Nora; and from the tribute by Pete Seeger. I call this book a keeper for all ages, an heirloom to be passed down to the next generation … and the next …

And have you heard

Little Seed: Songs for Children by Woody Guthrie?
Elizabeth Mitchell’s sweet, gentle voice highlights Guthrie’s playful, clear-eyed lyrics. This compilation provides families with a lovely way to share Guthrie’s songs with children. If you’re interested, you can click on the link to buy the CD or download any of the 13 songs, including the uncut version of “This Land Is Your Land.” You can hear a couple of tunes (“Bling Blang” and “This Land …”) on the free preview provided by Smithsonian Folkways.

Work Cited

Woody Guthrie still inspires, 100 years on from his birth(guardian.co.uk)

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. jewellrhodesasu
    Jul 18, 2012 @ 14:51:32

    This post–as well as the previous one–reminds me how important it is to write books about the outdoors for children. My daughter volunteers in inner-city schools in New York City, with Reading Partners, and is often explaining what a bog or a marsh is, or even how great the mountains are in other parts of the world. One child refused to believe (until Kelly pulled out her iPhone) that there were dinosaur fossils in the ground in Arizona!

    And then, when I was a girl in Pittsburgh, I cherished books like My Side of the Mountain for the wilderness experience that I never had.

    I hadn’t thought about Woody Guthrie in a long time. Thanks for the reminder. What a wonderful tribute–rich with meaning.

    One way children still get away from screens and into the outdoors is through Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts. I wonder if you know of any equally amazing non-fiction books about their origins, as well? I’ll be on the look out, too!

    All the best,
    Jewell

    Reply

    • Janice Floyd Durante
      Jul 19, 2012 @ 15:17:17

      Yes, it seems many children today are cooped up inside; I’ve become more aware of this since I read Richard Louv’s 2006 book LAST CHILD IN THE WOODS: SAVING OUR CHILDREN FROM NATURE-DEFICIT DISORDER. I can’t help but connect children’s inactivity with so-called ADHD. Don’t all of us lose focus after we’ve been sitting around too long?
      I agree about the value of scouting. Earlier this year, Shana Corey’s picture-book bio on Girl Scout founder Juliette Gordon Low came out and received positive reviews. You’ve just reminded me I wanted to check it out; it’s called HERE COME THE GIRL SCOUTS!
      Thanks for writing, Jewell.

      Reply

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