How Many Times? Blowin' in the Wind illustrated by Jon Muth
THE ANSWER, MY FRIEND, IS BLOWIN' IN THE WIND...
Bob Dylan's Blowin' in the Wind, performed and released in 1963, has ironically become the unofficial but iconic anthem of the Civil Rights Movement, but over the years since, the poetry behind the lyrics has assumed a more diffuse and universal significance. Social movements come and go, reach fruition and fame, and yet we still encounter the same issues of inequality and evil that humans have always faced. How do we explain this ongoing struggle to the young?
Caldecott Honor illustrator Jon Muth's just published Blowin' in the Wind (Sterling, 2011) uses the medium of the modern picture book, bringing his considerable artistic skills to the task of portraying Dylan's well-worn words. Muth uses diaphanous watercolors and a few central symbols, young children representing innocence, and their playthings--a big red balloon, small red ball, a modest bouquet of red flowers, a guitar, and paper airplanes lofted on the breeze--representing the fragility of hope and aspiration, blowin' in the wind so to speak, as line by line Dylan's verse appears on each page.
The children meet, push off into smooth waters together, one boy trailing his hand in the water, and finally disembark to toss the ball together, the balloon tied to the muzzle of a flag-draped cannon as their paper airplane becomes many, floating away as the song draws to its end:
YES, AND HOW MANY DEATHS WILL IT TAKE TILL THEY SEE
THAT TOO MANY PEOPLE HAVE DIED?
Muth chooses a gentle approach to this hard question, utilizing the soft and light style and use of images from nature that he used to such effect in last year's City Dog, Country Frog and his noted and best-selling Zen Ties and The Three Questions [Based on a story by Leo Tolstoy]. Muth doesn't hit the reader over the head with his theme, leaving Dylan's words to blend with his liquid illustrations and filter into the mind.
With an included CD of Dylan's original song and historical notes by Greil Marcus to put the song into context, this is a must-have title for libraries and a valuable addition to any home library. The New York Times said succinctly said, "…Jon J Muth['s] dreamy, delicate watercolors seem particularly well suited to Bob Dylan's call for peace, freedom and understanding."