The Animal Family (Michael Di Capua Books)

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9780062059048: The Animal Family (Michael Di Capua Books)

This is the story of how, one by one, a man found himself a family. Almost nowhere in fiction is there a stranger, dearer, or funnier family -- and the life that the members of The Animal Family live together, there in the wilderness beside the sea, is as extraordinary and as enchanting as the family itself.

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Review:

"Once upon a time, long, long ago, where the forest runs down to the ocean, a hunter lived all alone in a house made of logs he had chopped for himself and shingles he had split for himself." These words ease the reader into the elegant, dreamlike world of Randall Jarrell's Newbery Honor book The Animal Family. One night, the lonely hunter hears the singing of a mermaid, and because "he himself was as patient as an animal," the mermaid learns to trust him, speaking to him in a voice like the water. In time they teach each other their languages, with many amusing exchanges occurring as the hunter tries to teach his new friend terrestrial words and concepts. The hunter explains, "The house is a big wooden thing ... that you stay inside at night or when it rains." "Why?" she asks. "To keep from getting wet." "To keep from getting wet?" the mermaid says despairingly.

The mermaid and the hunter become a family when the hunter takes a bear cub from its mother to live with them as a son. "The bear's table manners were bad. But so were the mermaid's--especially as she couldn't resist throwing the bear pieces of fish." Having a bear around seems perfectly normal, but not quite a complete family, so eventually the hunter captures a spotted baby lynx. When the lynx brings home not another dead partridge, but a little boy, the delicate, playful family dynamics change again. This book of low-key epiphanies is packed with delightful, illuminating, often unexpected comparisons of the ocean world and the land world most non-mermaids wouldn't have considered. Enhanced by a beautiful design and gorgeous illustrations by Maurice Sendak, this book is perfect for any reader--young or old--ready for a bit of gentle philosophy with a decided twinkle. (All ages) --Karin Snelson

About the Author:

Randall Jarrell (1914-1965) received the National Book Award for his book of poems The Woman at the Washington Zoo. His children's book The Animal Family was named a Newbery Honor Book, and his translation of The Three Sisters was produced by The Actors Studio Theatre.

In addition to Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak's books include Kenny's Window, Very Far Away, The Sign on Rosie's Door, Nutshell Library (consisting of Chicken Soup with Rice, Alligators All Around, One Was Johnny, and Pierre), Higglety Pigglety Pop! or There Must Be More to Life, In the Night Kitchen, Outside Over There, We Are All in the Dumps with Jack and Guy, and Bumble-Ardy.

He received the 1964 Caldecott Medal for Where the Wild Things Are; the 1970 Hans Christian Andersen Award for Illustration; the 1983 Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, given by the American Library Association in recognition of his entire body of work; and a 1996 National Medal of Arts in recognition of his contribution to the arts in America. In 2003, he received the first Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, an international prize for children's literature established by the Swedish government.

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