As a children’s author, I’m always on the hunt for unusual books with unique messages. I hit the jackpot when I stumbled upon Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young” picture book. The song, which dates back to the 1970s, is one of the famed rocker’s most beloved ballads. My surprise was that it’s been made into a picture book by award-winning illustrator, Paul Rogers. I know I’m late to the game as it was published in 2008, but it put me on a quest to find other rock classics that have transitioned into the children’s book market. I’m happy to say there were quite a few in this genre and I purchased many of them for my personal collection. It also got me thinking that this might be an interesting blog to share, so here goes. Hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!
1. Forever Young | Written by Bob Dylan and Illustrated by Paul Rogers
Reading Level: Ages 5-9
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers/ Simon & Schuster (2008)
Brief Bio: Bob Dylan is a singer-songwriter who rose to popularity in the 1960s. During that time, he was seen as a voice for his generation with songs such as “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “The Times, They Are a-Changin” that rallied the Civil Rights and anti-war movements. He has had a prolific career that continues to this day. At age 79, he was still performing live on stage until Covid-19 canceled his concerts.
As the story goes, “Forever Young” was written as a lullaby for one of his sons. The opening lines reflect a blessing from the Old Testament:
“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.”
The first illustration introduces us to the story, depicting a boy on a stoop listening to a street performer playing guitar. This guitar, passed to the young boy, creates the narrative of life in the 1960s as he explores the musical and social influences of the time. The story comes full circle as he fulfills his dream of sharing his music, and subsequently, passes the guitar to a new generation.
As the illustrator, Paul Rogers, notes, “There’s an old country music tradition of giving someone your guitar as an act of friendship and admiration. Johnny Cash gave Dylan his guitar when the two met at the Newport Folk Festival in 1963.” (The significance of this historical moment is highlighted with the guitar being passed to the young boy.)
My favorite graphic spread displays a starry night sky depicting constellations of an astronaut, public servant, musician, and baseball player. They represent the hopes and dreams of a generation who’s encouraged to stay ‘forever young.’
Subtle Dylan trivia is scattered throughout the illustrations and explained in the “Illustrator’s Notes” in the back of the book. These include references to the unrest of the 1960s, so be aware of the political message.
The words are beautiful and It’s one of my favorite songs, so based on that, I purchased it. That being said, it may not be for everyone. It is available in multiple languages.