When Bob Met Woody

Gary Golio; Marc Bur­ck­hardt, illus.
  • Review
By – September 1, 2011
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.

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