When Paul Met Artie: The Sto­ry of Simon & Garfunkel

G. Neri; David Litch­field, illus.

  • Review
By – January 28, 2019

If you’re a fan of folk rock musi­cians Paul Simon and Art Gar­funkel, you will be delight­ed by this book. If you’re not famil­iar with their work, you will still admire the pas­sion behind this account of two kids who refused to be dis­cour­aged from pur­su­ing their dream, even when young Paul came to sus­pect that nobody wants a Jew­ish Elvis.”

When Paul Met Artie: The Sto­ry of Simon & Gar­funkel tells a time­less sto­ry of the con­flicts between artis­tic gifts and com­mer­cial expec­ta­tions, as well as the gap between cau­tious par­ents and ambi­tious chil­dren. The book ends as Simon & Garfunkel’s career is get­ting start­ed, and two boys / from Queens / dream­ing about / the future” have begun to build a bridge over trou­bled water between their aspi­ra­tions and their success.

Neri’s prose-poem chap­ters are intro­duced by song titles, and frame the sto­ry in a suc­cess­ful blend of imagery, rich and infor­ma­tive text, and rhyth­mic lan­guage. Open­ing each two-page spread feels like enter­ing a scene in a movie, with David Litchfield’s soul­ful draw­ings of the two young artists placed in authen­tic New York City scenes. In The Sound of Silence,” we see the two artists look­ing out from behind the doors of Manhattan’s icon­ic Brill Build­ing, home to music pub­lish­ers and aspir­ing musi­cians and writ­ers. Simon and Gar­funkel seem dwarfed by both the building’s height and the impos­ing bar­ri­er it rep­re­sents: the Mec­ca of music / the home of the hit mak­ers / the birth­place of gold records.” In My Lit­tle Town Thir­ty Years Ear­li­er” Neri invokes the intense­ly Jew­ish atmos­phere of the bor­ough of Queens, where Shab­bat din­ners and Yid­dish lan­guage are the back­drop for a younger gen­er­a­tion con­sumed by base­ball and rock and roll.

Neri and Litch­field choose to fol­low the Jew­ish thread through­out their inspir­ing sto­ry. The turn­ing point of the bar mitz­vah year, the con­flict over keep­ing their very Jew­ish last names, and their par­ents’ expec­ta­tions that they give up music and fol­low respectable” careers, all refer to key aspects of their core iden­ti­ties. Of course, the tal­ent­ed boys had many oth­er influ­ences on their lives — the civ­il rights move­ment, doo-wop har­monies, the new medi­um of tele­vi­sion, the folk music revival — and Neri weaves these into his poems. One of Litchfield’s illus­tra­tions com­bines six dif­fer­ent blocks of images. The jux­ta­po­si­tion of the New York City sky­line, a page from Simon’s note­book, a group of enthu­si­as­tic a cap­pel­la singers, and more, con­vey the inten­si­ty and rich­ness of the era.

Fur­ther evi­dence of the author’s and illustrator’s com­mit­ment to their sub­jects is the thought­ful sec­tion at the end of the book includ­ing an after­word, discog­ra­phy, bib­li­og­ra­phy, and anno­tat­ed list of Musi­cal Con­nec­tions,” end­ing with a pic­ture of Paul and Artie look­ing at one anoth­er in pro­file. It’s almost as if Neri and Litch­field were reluc­tant to part with the famous duo; you may feel the same way.

When Paul Met Artie is high­ly rec­om­mend­ed for read­ers ages 9 and up, includ­ing much old­er fans of Simon & Garfunkel.

Emi­ly Schnei­der writes about lit­er­a­ture, fem­i­nism, and cul­ture for TabletThe For­wardThe Horn Book, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions, and writes about chil­dren’s books on her blog. She has a Ph.D. in Romance Lan­guages and Literatures.

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