Simon and Garfunkel were a major part of my childhood soundtrack during the 60s and 70s…
… and as many Baby Boomers did, I introduced my own kids to their music as well. It just never gets old.
I’m not sure just who’ll be most pleased by the new picture-book biography of this duo — young children or their parents. I’ll just say that if there’s ever a time for folks ages 30 and up to grab a picture book for their own reading pleasure, this is one of them.
When Paul Met Artie: The Story of Simon and Garfunkel, written by Greg Neri, illustrated by David Litchfield
published in 2018 by Candlewick Press
Neri’s lengthy text is written in free verse. It begins with Simon and Garfunkel’s 1981 reunion concert in Central Park before flashing back to 1951 and proceeding on to 1966. Eighteen entries guide us through their early years growing up in Queens, meeting one another as teenagers, making forays into music, being electrified by the first sounds of rock ‘n roll, and searching for their sound.
If you know the story, you’ll know that they were nearly doomed from the start. So much trial and error, false starts, dead ends, separate ways, fill the pages of their life stories. Simultaneously, the nation was in tumult and music itself was morphing and emerging in bold, culture-changing ways.
Neri’s text is packed with information, tying together these various threads smoothly and artistically. Each entry is accompanied by handsome, full-page artwork by Litchfield that’s robust, urban, rich with cultural references to this time period. Included are a discography and bibliography, as well as an interesting list of musical influences and connections arranged chronologically.
I found this book fascinating as did my husband and two of our daughters in their 20s. I’d recommend it for anyone ages 9 and up who is interested in songwriting, folk music, or the countercultural movement of the 60s.
To that end, I’ve got a few more titles to recommend that dovetail nicely with this one, featuring heavy-hitting musical influences in the folk music scene of that time:
Woody Guthrie: Poet of the People, written and illustrated by Bonnie Christensen
published in 2001 by Alfred A. Knopf
This is a strikingly-illustrated, rich introduction to the great folk musician whose influence is certainly still felt today.
How well I remember belting out “This land is your land…” as a kid! Discover Guthrie’s roots and influence with ages 6 and up.
Odetta: The Queen of Folk, written and illustrated by Stephen Alcorn
published in 2010 by Scholastic Press
Get better acquainted with this tremendously powerful woman, whose deep voice, aching with rich emotion, made us all sit up and listen.
Evocative free verse and sweeping, dynamic artwork power us along here. Ages 6 and up.
Let Your Voice Be Heard: The Life and Times of Pete Seeger, by Anita Silvey
published in 2016 by Clarion Books
This is a lengthier biography, 85 pages long, suited to kids beginning at about age 10 and up through adults. Well-written, it gives a helpful window on the Depression-era, early days of labor movements, WWII, and the Red Scare which so deeply touched Seeger’s life. There are a number of picture book bios of Seeger but I’m just not in love with them. This is a worthwhile read if you really want to explore his music against a backdrop of U.S. history.
When Bob Met Woody: The Story of the Young Bob Dylan, written by Gary Golio, illustrated by Marc Burckhardt
published in 2011 by Little, Brown and Company
Finally, this warm story of Bob Dylan which ties all these artists together.
You’ll bump into Odetta, Woody Guthrie, and Pete Seeger in these pages and discover their profound influence on Bob, who likewise became a major influence on Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel. Bold colors and vintage-look illustrations accompany this story of Dylan’s early years, start in music, and zealous effort to connect with an ailing Woody Guthrie. Ages 5 and up. Minnesotans, this is basically required reading for you 🙂