Forever Young
By Bob Dylan
Illustrated by Paul Rogers
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
ISBN: 9781416958086
Grades: It’s Complicated (See Below)
In Stores

My favorite audience moment? I was at the Detroit stop of Outkast’s 2001 tour. Standing there in the crowd, dumbfoundedly enjoying the show, Andre 3000 spotted me from the stage. We both smiled, shared a “this is awesome, isn’t it” nod of approval, and the show went on. That was a memorable moment for me. Had something similar happened at a Frankie Avalon show, it wouldn’t have been as cool. Too big a generational gap. How does this story relate to children’s books? A huge part of how successful a book is depends on its audience. When a book can speak to a particular child at a particular time in their life, the results can be meaningful. “Forever Young” ain’t speaking to the little ones, but to an older audience who is both familiar with Bob Dylan’s music and understands the book’s message that youth is something to be cherished.

The story begins with a street performer handing an acoustic guitar to a young listener. This unnamed, blond haired boy takes the guitar and begins to practice. As the story continues, the lyrics of Dylan’s song stream by. The child gets older, starts a band, protests against war, and works to save the environment. At the end of the book our protagonist hands the guitar to a little girl, continuing the story.

The high point of this one is the illustration. Brightly retro in style, Paul Rodgers art comes across as truly vibrant. It also may be the fist appearance of Eames furniture in a picture book. The illustrator is clearly a Dylan devotee, as evidenced by the section in the back where he describes the inspiration behind each and every illustration. Again, this section is telling of who the intended reader is.

I see this one getting a lot of looks come high school graduation time, as a new alternative to the “Oh the Places You’ll Go” buyers. I can’t count myself among those who advocate picture book gifts for young adults (unless they are aspiring children’s librarians), but that’s the audience that will be most in “Forever Young”s wheelhouse. Very nice to look at, and a great song, but the message and meaning will be largely lost on young readers.

“Forever Young” animated book trailer:

Click here to listen “Forever Young” at LastFm.

Find this book at your local library with WorldCat.