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Positively Bob Dylan

ANSWER: Who is Robert Allan Zimmerman?

QUESTION:  What is Bob Dylan’s real name?

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Who Is Bob Dylan? by Jim O’Connor with illustrations by John O’Brien, Grosset & Dunlap, 2013.

This easy-to-read chapter book biography is one of over 50 already published in the WHO WAS? series. Other recent titles include WHO WAS CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS? and WHAT WAS PEARL HARBOR? What drew me into this particular book written by Jim O’Connor and illustrated by John O’Brien (Grosset & Dunlap, $4.99, Ages 8 and up) was my complete lack of knowledge regarding Dylan’s early years, his influences and the fantastic cover art which transported me to Greenwich Village, “the center of the folk music scene in the early 1960s.”

From a very young age, Bob Zimmerman of Hibbing, Minnesota was interested in music and at age ten “decided to learn to play a musical instrument.” After one lesson from a cousin, he decided to teach himself. He then moved onto the guitar, also learning it on his own, and formed a band with two friends called the Golden Chords. Unlike the majority of Zimmerman’s classmates, he was Jewish. Early on he’d make up stories about his background, perhaps trying to create a more alluring persona yet at the same time wanting to keep a lot of personal details private. The book traces his musical journey from his hometown, to university, his arrival in New York’s Greenwich Village, onto Woodstock, back to Greenwich and eventually making a home in Malibu, CA. Readers will also find out about Bob’s various relationships including a very public one with Joan Baez.

Along the way, O’Connor adds fab factoids that round out the book. Three pages are devoted to Early Rock Legends, another enlightens readers as to assorted Dylan aliases throughout the years, there’s one on Folk Songs, on the Civil Rights Movement, Acoustic Versus Electric, Women’s Lib, Woodstock and Dylan’s Musical Universe. Plus, a world timeline and one devoted to Bob Dylan’s life show how much change was going on during his music career.

O’Connor conveys info about Dylan’s life in an objective way, straightforward way, leaving readers to form their own opinions about the man to whom, in 2012, President Barack Obama awarded the Medal of Freedom. Kids first learning about Bob Dylan may be very surprised about his path to fame. I know I was.

– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

Words And Music

Books You Can Hum Along To

L.A. Parent’s Calendar Editor, Michael Berick, has compiled this collection of wonderful new books.

Stories and songs have been part of children’s lives since … there have been stories and songs. Combining books and music has been a growing trend, with a number of notable new additions.
9781402768583mMan Gave Names To All The Animals (Sterling, $17.95, ages 3 and up) turns Bob Dylan’s tune from his 1979 Slow Train Coming into a colorful picture book, illustrated by Jim Arnosky. Some might argue that the words work better as a picture book than on a grown-up CD. The book contains a CD with Dylan’s original rendition so you can compare.

9781402759642mPeter Yarrow, of Peter, Paul and Mary fame, has put together his latest songbook, The Peter Yarrow Songbook: Songs for Little Folks, (Sterling, $16.95, ages 4-7) filling it with more folk song favorites (like “Mary Has A Little Lamb” and “Pop, Goes The Weasel”). One of the nice things about this charming picture book, again illustrated by Terry Widener, is that it has pages with the songs’ chords and lyrics as well as a CD with Yarrow doing the tunes.

swingcafeThe Secret Mountain also is continuing its wonderfully innovative storybook-music CD series with two new titles. Swing Café (The Secret Mountain, $16.95), written by Carl Norac and illustrated by Rebecca Dautremer, follows the adventures of a cricket named Zaz to the soundtrack of vintage jazz tunes (Cab Calloway, Ella Fitzgerald, etc.), while The Little Blue Dog turns Lionel Daunais’ song about the title character into a picture book (illustrated by Marie LaFrance). Michelle Campagne & Family performs that song as well as another dozen Daunais tunes. One of the great things about these books is that the CD contains the story as well as the music tracks.

0310718198Coming out in January is I See The Rhythm Of Gospel (Zondervan, $16.99, ages 9-12) text by Toyomi Igus and paintings by Michele Wooda, an impressive picture book that tells the story of African-Americans in the U.S. through a poetic tale complimented by a historical timeline and a gospel-focused CD.

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