Title: Forever Young
Author: Bob Dylan
Illustrator: Paul Rogers
Publisher: Anthenum Books an imprint of Simon and Schuster, 2001
Audience: Ages 5 – 8
Summary of Book: Forever Young is a beloved song that Bob Dylan wrote for one of his sons. Dylan in conjunction with award winning artist Paul Rogers combine to make the song into a book which speaks to a wide range of audiences about important topics. The topics include, God blessing and keeping you, doing for others and letting others do for you, being righteous and true, and of course staying forever young.
Literary elements work in the story: This is a simple yet profound book. The lyrics of a beloved song are used to tell a story. The illustrator uses other Dylan songs for inspiration to take us on a journey. The journey follows a young boy who is given a guitar by a street singer and the impact that gift has on the boy’s life and those around him. This makes for an ideal book from the beginning reader to adults by showing how a gift to another can impact countless lives. The boy’s journey takes him from learning to play the guitar, to performing on the streets for others, to school, to becoming a concerned citizen trying to save the planet, to protesting the war in our nation’s capital and on the streets of his hometown, and finally to pass the guitar on to a young lady just as it was given to him.
(How) does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story? Although not one word is spoken about gender, race, culture, one’s financial worth, or personal ability the book openly promotes it from the first page to the last. On the first page a young boy is given a guitar with the words, “May God bless you and keep you always.” (Forever Young, p 2) A few pages later the boy is playing the guitar in a park with a mixed crowd of young people, adults, older adults, of all colors, shapes and sizes, with the words “May you always do for others and let others do for you.” (Forever Young, pp. 5-6) Later in the book it shows the boy now probably in high school ‘knuckling’ (a modern day way of giving someone five) a friend who is African American. Through the rest of the book it shows the two friends studying together, working together to save the planet, protesting the war, making groovy music, giving to others, and staying forever young.
Theological Conversation Partners: Although no scripture is used in the book the words of the first page set the tone, “May God bless and keep you always”. (Forever Young) This book is about doing for others and letting them do for you. It is about accepting and loving others who may be different from you. It is about stepping out of your comfort zone, which God calls us all to do. It is about noticing those around us that are so easily overlooked or taken for granted, like the little children and making them feel loved. It is about giving to others and not expecting anything in return.
Faith Talk Questions:
- Why do you think the street singer gave the guitar to the young boy?
- Are there hidden or obvious messages in any of the illustrations? If so, what do you see?
- What do you think the message for children is in this book?
- What do you think is the message for adults is in this book?
- Are the words of this book and their message something that we outgrow or something that their time has passed and cannot be brought back? Why do you think that?
- Do you believe that a simple act of giving can still have an impact in today’s world?
- Do you think it is better to give or to receive? Why?
- What does the term ‘forever young’ mean to you?
This review was written by Union Presbyterian student Bob Martin.