Illustrator: Mike DeSantis
Published by Vanita Books on October 1, 2015
Genres: Juvenile Nonfiction
Source: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley for review consideration.
Source: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration.
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This is a true story about Estonia, a small European nation that won its freedom from the former Soviet Union by showing that the spirit of a people is stronger than tanks and bullets. They showed their spirit by doing what they have always loved doing: raising their voices together in song. Sing Freedom! captures the essence of this successful nonviolent revolution in a format highly accessible to children. The conflict that eventually won the Estonians their freedom could have had a very violent outcome. This story tells the history of the oppression of the Estonian people and how they gained their freedom through non-violent means.
You know the wonderfully defiant scene in The Sound of Music when Captain von Trapp sings “Edelweiss” at the festival, with the Nazis standing right there? In 1960 a similar moment took place during Estonia’s national singing festival (Laulupidu). That sparked a nonviolent revolution for freedom, which is what Vanita Oelschlager’s new children’s book Sing Freedom! is all about.
I was nervous that a book about a country gaining its freedom from the Soviet Union would be a bit much for my tenderhearted kindergartner, but Oelschlager has a knack for sharing tough stories with this age group. The story is simplified just enough—and no more—for it to be accessible, with the human experience always at the forefront. C really loved Mike DeSantis’s illustrations. Her favorite page (below) depicts the Baltic Chain, “because of the beautiful flag and how the people are holding hands”:
C and I followed the book with the video below, a performance of “Mu isamaa on minu arm” from the 2014 Laulupidu. It’s a stunning song, especially powerful after learning more about it in the book.
Adults: Want to learn more? Check out the documentary The Singing Revolution.