The Boss and a bank-robbing baby

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Just quietly, I think the song lyrics “I want to guard your dreams and visions, Just wrap your legs ’round these velvet rims, And strap your hands ‘cross my engines…” are possibly the greatest lyrics ever written. Some of you will know where they come from and you might also be wondering how The Boss fits in with a Babyology book review…

Bruce Springsteen has written a picture book. Not content to be The Boss of rock, Springsteen has applied his way with words to a gung-ho cowboy inspired adventure, Outlaw Pete.
Inspired by happy memories of being read the story Brave Cowboy Bill as a child (which sparked a love of all things Western), Springsteen released a song, Outlaw Pete, in 2009 (from the album, Working on a Dream). Then, taking the story one step further, he teamed up with illustrator Frank Caruso, to release the picture book, Outlaw Pete.

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The story begins with Pete, a bank-robbing baby, who grows up to be an outlaw, forever paying for his wrong-doings. There are robberies, pistols, ponies, knives, murders, rivers, mountains and the burning sun – it may not sound like the ideal bedtime story but as Springsteen notes in the afterword –

“It’s not easy and I’m not sure this is a children’s book, though I believe children instinctively understand passion and tragedy. And, a six-month-old, bank-robbing baby is a pretty good protagonist.”

I’ve already declared my love for Springsteen’s way with lyrics and to see them accompanied by Caruso’s bold illustrations is a treat. Caruso, best known as a cartoonist and notably the artist who has drawn Betty Boop and Popeye for 27 years, had long been a Springsteen fan when he heard Outlaw Pete. The song resonated and in it, Caruso recognised Outlaw Pete as a wonderful character that begged to be painted. The result is a compelling blend of illustrations done in richly-coloured oils, over-layed with flat cartoon images. The final pages, showing a shadowy Pete and his pony on the icy ledge of a mountain are hauntingly beautiful.

Outlaw Pete is available online from Book Depository, which delivers free of charge to Australia. Is it suitable for children? Maybe just the kids of Springsteen fans!

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Katrina Whelen

Katrina studied planning and design, did the hard yards working in a big office building and then traded it all in for a relaxing (!) life at home with four children. She now fills her time with writing, completing a degree in genetics and taxiing her children around Melbourne to their various sporting commitments (not necessarily in that order).

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