Hey, parents, it’s time to dust off your vinyl and take it for a spin. If you’re old enough to understand the intrigue of album cover art, you’ll enjoy getting to know this children’s book version of Bob Dylan’s Forever Young, thoughtfully illustrated by Paul Rogers.
The words of the 1973 song echo the idealism of the early ’60s. The lilt and rhyme of the text sound as soothing as “Goodnight Moon,” offering up a peaceful retreat in the middle (or the end) of a hectic day. Written for his own son, Dylan’s lyrics ring like comforting proverbs with verses such as “May God bless and keep you always,/ May your wishes all come true, May you always do for others/ And let others do for you.”
Earthy with bright ink and acrylics, loaded with nostalgia and historical-cultural imagery, Roger’s illustrations tell the story of a boy growing up with a stack of records and a guitar. The images include references to Dylan’s life and lyrics as well as to legendary folk singers and the New York folk-music scene of the 1960s.
The Illustrator’s Notes on the back pages give plenty of background for those unfamiliar with Dylan’s canon or the social history of the ’60s, and Rogers suggests certain album tracks to listen to in relation to some pages.
His illustrations may inspire young readers to explore the poetry in the lyrics of this prolific songwriter or even plan a pilgrimage to New York City based on tidbits found here. (Can you really find the VW bus and Chevy still parked on Jones Street, as pictured on the album cover of “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan”? If so, please let me know.)
“Forever Young” has not an ounce of cynicism. Its references to current political and environmental concerns might make it unpalatable to some readers and its completely positive spin may seem Pollyanna-ish to others.
But amid the drone of pessimism in so much of contemporary literature, “Forever Young” seems a refreshing voice, singing a new-old anthem of hope.
Enicia Fisher writes about children’s books.