Keeping with this week’s patriotic theme, I thought I would share a book that offers a musical slice of Americana. The title is This Land is Your Land (10th Anniversary Edition) and it visually demonstrates the song of the same title. Woody Guthrie wrote the words and music of this American standard in 1956 and it shares a sentiment that crosses racial, gender, and generational lines with grace. I’ve spent years teaching music in one form or another, as well as serving as a pre-kindergarten teacher in recent years and I can’t separate music from general education. It’s one of the most effective tools available to us and when you combine that with the power of reading, you have a recipe for changing the world.
Page after page, you’ll find this to be an illustration rich book thanks to the artistry of Kathy Jakobsen. Her paintings honor Guthrie’s words and legacy, as well as provide jump-starts for history and social studies discussions and lessons.
You’ll also find the illustrations range from calm landscapes to panoramic scenes and then murals that provide glimpses of our history and heritage. The corners of many of the pages have blocks with quotes from Guthrie and his songs. Famous architectural jewels, natural landmarks, images of migrant farm workers, and other bits of Americana occupy the pages that remind us of Guthrie’s forward-thinking vision for our nation.
The above illustration depicts a depression-era soup line, one of the sadder scenes of our heritage. Guthrie didn’t shy away from our realities and just sing about the beauty of our nation. Instead, he emphasized what our nation could become and what roles we should play in that evolution. The lyrics for this stanza of the song are:
“In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people;
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking,
Is this land made for you and me?”
Later in the book, the little white church is revisited and we see it in its restored and vital splendor serving a community of diverse Americans. The stanza represented with this new vision offers a pro-active example for all readers and singers to follow.
“Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back;
This land was made for you and me.”
A three-page pull-out poster, the words and music for the chorus of the song, and a tribute to Woody Guthrie by another famed folk-singing legend, Pete Seeger are all included in the pages of this book. The reasons for sharing this treasure with your children are numerous. Its message is multigenerational and ties in elements of literature, history, architecture, art, music, and social justice issues. From a teacher’s perspective, this is a teaching tool around which a whole, multi-subject unit could be based. Go. Find it. Take it all in and pass it on to your children.
This Land is Your Land, (10th Anniversary Edition)
Music and Lyrics by Woody Guthrie
Paintings by Kathy Jakobsen
Tribute by Pete Seeger
Publisher: Little, Brown