Bob Dylan, Author, Scott Campbell, Illustrator
Music icon Bob Dylan and acclaimed illustrator Scott Campbell team up in this delightful interpretation of Dylan’s 1970 song, “If Dogs Run Free”!
If dogs run free,
Why not we?
In this quirky, spirited interpretation of Bob Dylan’s 1970 song, “If Dogs Run Free,” illustrator Scott Campbell brings Dylan’s lyrics to life as a celebration of the freedom and creativity of childhood. Children of all ages will delight in the message, “Just do your thing!”
The lyrics to a 1970 Dylan song serve as the text for this quirky ode to children and dogs running free, doing their own thing.
Through his appealing watercolor illustrations, Campbell has done a fine job creating a coherent, imaginative story from Dylan’s poetic lyrics. A little girl who serves as the narrator leaves the house with her younger brother and their dog for a day of adventure. They run off to an imaginary world with a huge park filled with dozens of dogs, skip across lily pads in a pond filled with animals playing instruments, and fly up into the sky, “blowin’ in the wind” via bouquets of balloons. Dylan’s sophisticated phrases might be difficult for literal-minded children, causing them to struggle with the meaning of a “tapestry of rhyme” or “the cosmic sea.” But taken as a whole, the slightly mystifying text and the bouncy, happy kids and dogs sliding through space and time meld together into a satisfying tale, with undeniably cute canines and children running free and enjoying life, on their own like rolling stones.
Dylan is known as the poet laureate of rock music, but will his whimsical, metaphorical lyrics capture a child’s attention? As another Dylan song recommends, “Don’t think twice, it’s all right.”(Picture book. 3-6)
About the song
Bob Dylan’s 2004 memoir Chronicles: Volume One devotes not a word to Blonde on Blonde, Blood on the Tracks, Highway 61 Revisited or most of his other great albums, but you do learn a ton about the making of 1970’s New Morning, down to the making of “If Dogs Run Free.”
“For one of the sets of lyrics, [Al] Kooper played some Teddy Wilson riffs on the piano,” Dylan wrote. “There were three girl singers in the room who sounded like they’d been plucked from a choir, and one of them did some improvisational scat singing. The whole thing was done in just one take and called ‘If Dogs Run Free.'” The song is loose, fun and unlike anything in the Dylan catalog, though clearly a minor work. The song wasn’t touched live until 2000, when it became a regular part of his show and was played nearly 100 times in two years.
“If Dogs Run Free,” from the 1970 album New Morning, is Dylan’s version of a novelty song: a goof on a ’50s-style mashup of piano jazz and spoken word (“If dogs run free, then what must be/ Must be, and that is all./ True love can make a blade of grass/ Stand up straight and tall”). It inspires the talented Campbell (East Dragon, West Dragon) to create a benevolent, retro-ish watercolor universe of cross-species friendships and endlessly fun things to do, with a wide-eyed and inexhaustible girl, her younger brother, and their pet dog as ringleaders. When Dylan muses, “If dogs run free, why not me/ Across the swamp of time?” Campbell offers an aquatic orchestra of sorts, as the main characters are joined by a host of frogs, waterfowl, turtles, and dogs, all floating on logs, lily pads, and a cooperative crocodile while they sing and play musical instruments. But despite the succession of lively scenes Campbell paints, without Dylan’s ironic, gravelly delivery and the knowing accompaniment, the text comes off as opaque. Ages 4–8. (Sept.)