cover image If Dogs Run Free

If Dogs Run Free

Bob Dylan, illus. by Scott Campbell. S&S/Atheneum, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-4516-4879-9

“If Dogs Run Free,” from the 1970 album New Morning, is Dylan’s version of a novelty song: a goof on a ’50s-style mashup of piano jazz and spoken word (“If dogs run free, then what must be/ Must be, and that is all./ True love can make a blade of grass/ Stand up straight and tall”). It inspires the talented Campbell (East Dragon, West Dragon) to create a benevolent, retro-ish watercolor universe of cross-species friendships and endlessly fun things to do, with a wide-eyed and inexhaustible girl, her younger brother, and their pet dog as ringleaders. When Dylan muses, “If dogs run free, why not me/ Across the swamp of time?” Campbell offers an aquatic orchestra of sorts, as the main characters are joined by a host of frogs, waterfowl, turtles, and dogs, all floating on logs, lily pads, and a cooperative crocodile while they sing and play musical instruments. But despite the succession of lively scenes Campbell paints, without Dylan’s ironic, gravelly delivery and the knowing accompaniment, the text comes off as opaque. Ages 4–8. (Sept.)