Reviews of “The Story of the Young Bob Dylan”

“Hey hey, Woody Guthrie, I wrote you a song…”

When Bob finished, Woody’s face lit up like the sun.

Bob Dylan is a musical icon, an American legend, and, quite simply, a poet. But before he became Bob Dylan, he was Bob Zimmerman, a kid from rural Minnesota.

This lyrical and gorgeously illustrated picture book biography follows Bob as he renames himself after his favorite poet, Dylan Thomas, and leaves his mining town to pursue his love of music in New York City. There, he meets his folk music hero and future mentor, Woody Guthrie, changing his life forever.

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“Bob floated into this world on waves of sound.
In the city of Duluth, on the shore of Lake Superior, in the cold North Country of Minnesota.
To the music of ships’ bells, seagulls’ cries, and the rhythm of rumbling freight cars,
young Bob Zimmerman began his life story.”

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As children and young people, we often look to those we admire as guiding stars on the journey to become ourselves. Bob Dylan found such a star in Woody Guthrie, and this changed not only his life, but the course of modern music history. When Bob Met Woody is about Bob’s early years in Minnesota, his passion for rock and
roll, country, and blues, and his discovery of folk music greats like Leadbelly. Hearing  Odetta’s fiery ballads, he traded in his electric guitar for an acoustic, and began playing in  Minneapolis coffeehouses. When a friend turned him on to the songs and singing of Woody Guthrie, Bob felt like he’d found a home. Learning that Woody was still alive in a New Jersey hospital, he traveled east during a January snowstorm and soon made his way
to Woody’s side. With his first step onto a Greenwich Village stage and the writing of his  “Song to Woody,” Bob was on his way to becoming a folk music legend.

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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.

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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.

 

 

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About Woody Guthrie

American singer-songwriter and musician whose musical legacy includes hundreds of political, traditional and children’s songs, ballads and improvised works. He frequently performed with the slogan This machine kills fascists displayed on his guitar. His best-known song is “This Land Is Your Land.” Many of his recorded songs are archived in the Library of Congress Songwriters such as Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, Bruce Springsteen, Robert Hunter, Harry Chapin, John Mellencamp, Pete Seeger, Andy Irvine, Joe Strummer, Billy Bragg, Jerry Garcia,Jay Farrar, Bob Weir, Jeff Tweedy, Bob Childers and Tom Paxton have acknowledged Guthrie as a major influence.

Many of his songs are about his experiences in the Dust Bowl era during the Great Depression when Guthrie traveled with displaced farmers from Oklahoma to California and learned their traditional folk and blues songs, earning him the nickname the “Dust Bowl Troubadour. Throughout his life Guthrie was associated with United States Communist groups, though he was seemingly not a member of any.

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Guthrie was married three times and fathered eight children, including American folk musician Arlo Guthrie. Guthrie died from complications of Huntington’s disease, a progressive genetic neurological disorder. During his later years, in spite of his illness, Guthrie served as a figurehead in the folk movement, providing inspiration to a generation of new folk musicians, including mentor relationships with Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and Bob Dylan.

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Gary Golio is the New York Times bestselling author of Jimi: Sounds Like a Rainbow, A Story of the Young Jimi Hendrix. He has also counseled children and teens in the area of addiction. Gary lives with his wife, the author Susanna Reich, in Ossining, New York. To learn more, please visit www.garygolio.com.

Sharon Creech is the Newberry Medal-winning author of Walk Two Moons. Her other work includes Bloomability, Absolutely Normal Chaos, Chasing Redbird, and Pleasing the Ghost. After spending eighteen years teaching and writing in Europe, Sharon Creech and her husband have recently returned to the United States. They live near Princeton, New Jersey.

 

 

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