Walker illustrates the 1970 Dylan tune with an adorable parent-child canine pair.
Using minimal backgrounds and props to keep the focus on the relationship, Walker masterfully conveys emotions in his acrylic illustrations. Over three pages, the text reads, “If not for you // Babe, I couldn’t find the door / Couldn’t even see the floor / I’d be sad and blue / If not for you,” while the pictures show a game of hide-and-seek, the parent with paws over eyes, then seeking, and finally joyously finding the pup. Indeed, the parent’s life would not be the same without the little one’s exuberance: waking the older dog up with a trumpet, jumping in rain puddles, catching butterflies, watching the clouds and birds in the sky, and taking imaginary journeys together. And as if those weren’t enough, the final two spreads spell it out: the parent sits forlornly on one swing, the adjacent one empty. A turn of the page reveals parent and child gleefully sailing through the air together with the titular phrase underneath. But while this refrain lends itself very well to the parent-loves-child-so-much genre, the rest of the song’s lyrics don’t always. For instance, “Babe” is not usually an address used with a child.
Song lyrics don’t always make great children’s books, and that’s the case here, but the pictures are so poignant that parents could make up their own words and turn this into something greater than it is. (Picture book. 4-8)