When Bob Met Woody by Gary Golio

Cindy: When my oldest daughter first took guitar lessons, she struggled as the instructor made her pluck out the notes for “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” My brother was disdainful of that method. He said, “I can teach her three chords and she’ll be able to play any Bob Dylan song she wants, and what more would she want?” I was reminded of that comment as I read When Bob Met Woody (Little, Brown 2011) and learned that Bob hated taking piano lessons and decided, “I’m going to play the piano the way I want to.” He went on to teach himself piano and guitar.

I always enjoy any story about how someone with talent first found their passion and how they went about pursuing it. This picture book biography tells of young Bob Dylan listening to Chicago radio broadcasts of Muddy Waters and B.B. King. And for Dylan, like many budding musicians, when Elvis burst on the scene the impact was irreversible. This was something he had to do. Reading this book makes me want to make a mix disc of these artists and the others: Lead Belly, Odetta, and Hank Williams who influenced Bob. I’d put a Dylan Thomas poem on the cd case, and I’d hope for permission to use one of the illustrations from this book. Marc Burckhardt’s folk art paintings are the perfect accompaniment to a folk musician’s story. I could see this picture book being a spring board for a middle or high school class project about the subjects contained within: Musician and author biographies, music’s influence on activism, and the historical influences on the music.

Having had many star moments meeting authors and illustrators that I idolize, I can easily imagine what Bob must have thought when he finally came face to face with Woody Guthrie, a man whose songs he’d memorized, and whose ideals for activism he emulated. I may have to celebrate reading this book with buying a copy of the recently released A Note of Hope in which 13 contemporary musicians pay tribute to Guthrie by working with his mostly unpublished lyrics to create new songs. With the likes of Lou Reed, Ani DiFranco, Michael Franti and Pete Seeger chiming in, how bad can it be?

Lynn:  Some young readers may be (sadly) fuzzy on just who these people were, but Golio provides the perfect entry point to their stories by putting the focus on how alone Dylan felt as a teen – so different and so driven by his music.  Young people of any era can identify with the young man who was willing to do so much to even be near the hero he worshiped.  This is a warm-hearted story and it’s noteworthy that Guthrie and others so generously encouraged the young singer with his unique style.  I too loved the  illustrations that are perfectly in tune with the subject, making this a book to linger over.  I also really appreciate his careful research and documentation.  In an author’s note, Golio writes about the process of tracking the accurate history of someone whose own version of his life varies.  I agree with Cindy that this is picture book that will work wonderfully with a broad range of readers.

Check out other great Nonfiction Monday books at Apple with Many Seeds.



About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

6 Comments on "When Bob Met Woody by Gary Golio"

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  1. This does sound interesting.
    Thanks so much for stopping and linking your post with today’s Nonfiction Monday event.
    Apples with Many Seeds

  2. gary@garygolio.com' Gary Golio says:

    You lovely lady-bookends are the best!
    Thanks for spreading Woody’s and Bob’s collective legacy.


  3. I have read and reviewed Forever Young – a picture book devoted to the song of Dylan – and while not strictly a picture book biography, the amazing details found in Paul Rogers’ illustrations kind of tell the tale of Dylan’s journeys, so to speak. I have bookmarked this post of yours – I am always interested in the biographies of musicians. 🙂

  4. Myra, I’d forgotten about the Forever Young book. I’ve read about it but not seen it yet. I will hunt it down. We have a few more picture book biographies of musicians in the archives. Click on the “Music” category in the left frame. (There’s a Jimi Hendrix also by Gary Golio)along with Elvis and Bob Marley.

  5. bkittles@verizon.net' Bob Kittleson says:

    Three chords would work with most of his early stuff but I would’ve needed to teach my niece a few more to get some others of them down. It is a nice quote though and I honored to be mentioned.

    As “Hank Hill” once said “it is alright if you only know four chords as long as you play them in the right order”.

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