This picture book caught my eye at the library. It gives a brief overview of Bob Dylan's early life (as much as is known; he apparently likes to make up things about his life!) and chronicles how he went to New York City to visit Woody Guthrie, who at the time was dying of Huntington's disease. In meeting Guthrie, Dylan gained entry into Folk circles and started his long and illustrious career. Afterword and resources are included.
Strengths: Nice overview of Dylan's life. The pictures are interesting. Would be a good book for elementary schools where they study music. Might encourage students to pick up longer biographies on both artists.
Weaknesses: Not sure of how many elementary schools need these books. I have such a bad feel for elementary audiences!
Coombs, Karen Mueller. Woody Guthrie: America's Folksinger. (CarolRhoda, 2002)
This nicely illustrated and formatted book unflinchingly discusses the difficulties in Guthrie's early life in a way that students can understand. His mother, suffering also from Huntington's, had erratic behavior that resulted in more house fires than any one family should have. Guthrie's path to a career in music is discussed, and the other singers and historical figures with whom he came in contact are also described. His marital difficulties and multiple children are mentioned without judgement. His eventual demise to to the same disease that ravaged his mother ends the book.
Strengths: The tone of this was very well-done, given the difficulties of Guthrie's life. The historical background is more of a reason to get this book than Guthrie himself; it gives such a vivid picture of the Dust Bowl and all of the social issues in the first part of the last century.
Weaknesses: Students who choose this for a school project will want to select their information carefully. This could make for one depressing Wax Museum feature!
Roberts, Jeremy. Bob Dylan: Voice of a Generation.
neration. (Lerner, 2005)
As with the Guthrie book, the inclusion of vast amounts of historical information as a background for Dylan's life is what makes this book a valuable addition to a collection. As mentioned earlier, Dylan is less than truthful about his own background, but the author gathers what evidence there is to outline the story of Dylan's life. Plentiful illustrations and pages devoted to different historical topics (The Counterculture of the 1960s, The Music of Joan Baez) help to round out the picture of a colorful character.
Strengths: This would be good for a high school collection where they study the 1960s or the Beat poets.
Weaknesses: So little has been done with biographies in recent years that I can't really justify purchasing any more titles. I love biographies, but it is difficult to get students to read them. At least we can always have them sent over from the public library.