cover image If Not for You

If Not for You

Bob Dylan, illus. by David Walker. S&S/Atheneum, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-4516-4881-2

As a dog savors time spent with his rambunctious puppy, his thoughts turn to... Bob Dylan. Although the bittersweet text describes how bereft the narrator would be without his loved one (“If not for you/ Winter would have no spring/ Couldn’t hear the robin sing”), Walker—with his palette of nursery blues and greens and a cast that resembles cuddly plush toys—keeps the mood mostly light. The winter-without-spring reference shows the older dog kicking back on a green, flower-dotted hill, smiling as his offspring runs after butterflies. At times, Dylan’s lyrics force Walker (First Grade, Here I Come!) to slip into something more existential—a mood that can feel out of step with the way children think about the parent-child dynamic. The line “I’d lay awake all night/ Wait for the mornin’ light” finds Dad by himself on his bed at 4 a.m., looking up at the moon with an expression of mild anxiety. Is he pondering the inexorable passage of time? His own mortality? The cost of raising kids? Don’t think twice, Dad—it’s all right. Ages 4–8. (Apr.)