Written with a lyrical text and a clear admiration for the subject, this picture book biography about the early life of Bob Dylan (a.k.a. Bob Zimmerman) is an appealing introduction to one of the most renowned and highly respected musicians of our time. From his childhood in Minnesota to the streets of Greenwich Village, this book describes young Bob as a boy who loved music from a very young age, particularly the music he listened to on far off radio stations from Chicago and the south. Self taught on the guitar and piano, Bob imagined a life beyond the mining towns of Minnesota, and was deeply influenced by blues and folk music that spoke to the hard life and struggles for justice experienced by people all over the country. Of all the notable singers he listened to and emulated, none was more influential than Woody Guthrie, whose songs told stories about an America that Bob longed to see. Renaming himself after the poet Dylan Thomas, Bob Dylan hitchhiked to New York when he was nineteen and met the legendary folk singer that had shaped his music and his dreams, and set him on his own trail for glory. The rest is musical history, and this book does not attempt to flesh out Bob Dylan’s career with anything more than an afterword, a list of sources and several well-placed quotes. There is a small but important reference to the fact that the Zimmermans were one of only a few Jewish families in their town, and that young Bob was teased for being “different,” implying that music was his means for dealing with the angry feelings this generated. Acrylic and oilpaper illustrations have a crackly finish and are richly colored, with an old-fashioned folk art feel. While young Bob doesn’t look like the brooding iconic musician we’re familiar with, certain images cast him in lonely light that seems appropriate. Most striking is an illustration of Woody Guthrie standing in front of a farmhouse that is filled with so much hope and American promise it lets the reader see what Bob Dylan saw in Woody’s music, “a bigger, brighter world” where this singer songwriter would eventually influence a generation. For ages 7 – 10.
Teri Markson has been a children’s librarian for over 18 years. She is currently the acting senior librarian at the Valley Plaza Branch Library in North Hollywood, CA.