The Animal Family

The Animal Family


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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062059048
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 10/25/1996
Series: Michael Di Capua Books Series
Pages: 192
Product dimensions: 5.25(w) x 6.62(h) x 0.61(d)
Lexile: 920L (what's this?)
Age Range: 8 - 12 Years

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.

Maurice Sendak’s children’s books have sold over 30 million copies and have been translated into more than 40 languages. He received the 1964 Caldecott Medal for Where the Wild Things Are and is the creator of such classics as In the Night Kitchen, Outside Over There, Higglety Pigglety Pop!, and Nutshell Library. In 1970 he received the international Hans Christian Andersen Medal for Illustration, in 1983 he received the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award from the American Library Association, and in 1996 he received a National Medal of Arts in recognition of his contribution to the arts in America. In 2003, Sendak received the first Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, an annual international prize for children’s literature established by the Swedish government.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

0nce 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. The house had one room, and at the end closest to the ocean there was a fireplace of pink and gray and green boulders — the hunter had carried them home in his arms from the cliff where the forest ended. On the crushed seashells of the floor there were deerskins and sealskins, and on the bed was the skin of a big black bear. Hanging on the wall over the bed were the hunter's bows and arrows.

The hunter, a big brown-faced man with fair hair and a fair beard, wore trousers and a shirt and shoes of creamy deerskin; his silvery gray cloak was made of the hide of a mountain lion; and the cap he wore when it rained or snowed was the skin of a sea-otter. Over the fireplace hung a big brass hunting horn he had found in a wreck the waves washed ashore. He had carved some of the logs of the walls and some of the planks of the chairs into foxes and seals, a lynx and a mountain lion. When he sat at night by the logs blazing in the fireplace, the room looked half golden with firelight and half black with the shadow of the firelight, and the logs would roar and crackle so loudly that they drowned out the sound of the waves on the beach below.

But when the logs had burnt to embers and the embers had burnt away to coals, the man would lie in his bed, warm under the bearskin, and listen to the great soft sound the waves made over and over. It seemed to him that it was like his mother singing. And before he could rememberthat his father and mother were dead and that he lived there all alone, he had drifted off to sleep — and in his sleep his mother sat by the bed singing, and his father sat at the fireplace waxing his bowstring or mending his long white arrows.

In spring the Meadow that ran down from the cliff to the beach was all foam-white and sea-blue with flowers; the hunter looked at it and it was beautiful. But when he came home there was no one to tell what he had seen — and if he picked the flowers and brought them home in his hands, there was no one to give them to. And when at evening, past the dark blue shape of a far-off island, the sun sank under the edge of the sea like a red world vanishing, the hunter saw it all, but there was no one to tell what he had seen.

One winter night, as he looked at the stars that, blazing coldly, made the belt and the sword of the hunter Orion, a great green meteor went slowly across the sky. The hunter's heart leaped, he cried: "Look, look!" But there was no one to look.

One evening he was lying on his bed. The soft summer breeze blew in through his open door, and the moonlight lay on the floor by the window like the skin of a white bear. The hunter thought; after a while his thoughts changed to dreams, and his mother was singing to him. But all at once his eyes were open, he was awake, and he could still hear someone singing. He got up and went down through the Meadow to the sea. The tide was out. He walked over the warm wet sand, and the warm soft waves ran to his feet and died away whispering, in little foaming scallops like the scales of a fish.

Out at the seal rocks, hidden in their shadow, something was singing in a soft voice like a woman's. The song had words, but no words the hunter had ever heard before, and the song itself was different from any he had ever heard. He listened for a long time. The song ended on a long low note, and then everything was silent except the sea, whose shallow silver waves made a little hushing sound, and were silent for an instant, and then said Hush! again.

The hunter called to the singer. From the rocks' shadow he heard a quick scrambling noise, and then the sound of something diving into the water — the sound the seals always made. Shading his eyes with his hands, the hunter stared into the moonlight round the shadow of the rocks. But there was nothing to see and, now, nothing to hear. After a while he went home.

The next night when he heard the voice singing, and went down to the shore and listened till its new song was over, and then called softly to it, the singer dived into the water just as before; but this time, as the hunter stated into the moonlight round the rocks, a sleek wet head came up out of the water, stared at him with shining eyes, and then sank back under and was gone. It was nothing he had ever seen before. Its long shining hair and shining skin were the same silvery blue-green, the color of the moonlight on the water. As he walked home over the sand of the beach and the grasses of the meadow, the hunter sang to himself, over and over, the last notes of the mermaid's song.

All the next day, no matter what he did, he hummed them; sometimes he would forget them for a few moments and be afraid he had forgotten them for good, but they always came back to him. That night when the moon rose the hunter went down to the beach, sat at the edge of the water, and began to sing.

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Animal Family 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Treeseed on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I first read The Animal Family back in 1968, I think. It's a quiet little book and I loved it, then, mostly for one of its characters, the land-loving mermaid. Secure in my own family, I don't think I realized the book's lessons about the essence of families. It was something I took for granted back then. In reading it again recently I find that it (or I) have grown. There is a lot to this short, small, squarish children's book that can be read in a single sitting, a lot of wisdom that a reader can carry with them to help make this a better world. First published in 1965, written by teacher, poet Randall Jarrell with chapter decorations by the great Maurice Sendak of Where the Wild Things Are fame, the book is intended for the readership of 9-12 year olds. It is the story of a family who find each other by chance. Rather than being a family born together who share similarities, they connect despite their differences and in celebration of their differences. This story does not bowl a reader over with action or suspense or trials and tribulations. It unfolds during the every day life of the characters, a life which always seems to be very special because the differences between the characters make what is ordinary to one person seem astonishing and marvelous to another. The story begins with a lonely hunter living in a rustic cabin on a rugged seacoast at the edge of a great forest. Jarrell's poet soul shines through in his prose as he describes the cabin, "He had carved some of the logs of the walls and some of the planks of the chairs into foxes and seals, a lynx and a mountain lion. When he sat at night by the logs blazing in the fireplace, the room looked half golden with firelight and half black with the shadow of firelight, and the logs would roar and crackle so loudly that they drowned out the sound of the waves on the beach below." One night the hunter hears a beautiful voice singing in a strange language from somewhere out near the seal rocks in the cove. Gradually, over time, his patience wins the singer's trust and he becomes friends with the mermaid. She is a curious and open-minded mermaid indeed and eventually defies all the conventions of her people, falls in love with the hunter and goes to live in his cabin on the land. The mermaid and the hunter are different in nearly every way. She lives totally in the moment and finds concepts like "mistake" or "boredom" or "crying" completely foreign. She can't imagine why he doesn't like to be out in the rain or why he is willing to wait so patiently for a fish to swim up to his hook. Her emotions are different and she, like the others of her kind, is used to "just swimming away" when things are unpleasant. He doesn't care for her taste for raw fish while she finds cooked things distasteful and detests sweet things like berries and honey most of all. "They're ugly, ugly! All gummy and blurry! How can you eat them?" The hunter carries the mermaid when they travel over longer distances but she learns to pull herself along on land quite comfortably. "When she came from the sea to the house she would leave a trail of crushed grass and flowers through the meadow, and she would smell of them for a while; but she herself had a sharp salt smell, like the spray of a wave as it breaks across your face. Her blue eyes and dark skin shone, and her teeth, when she smiled, were as white as foam." Other differences like clothes and household tasks are puzzling at first but nothing is so puzzling as fire. At first she thinks that the red hot coals in the fireplace are bright corals and the hunter has to show her how hot they are and that they can burn. She teaches him to speak her language but it is very difficult for him and she learns his language more quickly. She teaches him to speak Dolphin and Seal as well in case he ever falls overboard when he is out fishing. They exchange their stories and customs and memories, sharing their differences as though they are treasures. The hunter and
rkbl More than 1 year ago
One of the sweetest, kindest stories every written.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was my favorite book as a child of about 8 or 9. I found my copy of it in a box my parents sent me and just read it aloud again with my sons, age 9 and 6. My 9-year old, who is more into Percy Jackson these days, was not terribly engaged. But my 6-year old fell in love with it and wants to read it again and again. Randall Jarrell's descriptions of the characters really brings them to life and illustrates the joy of "finding" family that one is not born into. The warm interconnectedness of the characters and the love they have for each other is sublime, and as it happens in life sometimes, they can't remember there was a time they were ever without one another. It's a very charming, sweet read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
the simple and profound love in this book has filled me with sad hope for more than 30 years...demonstrates how pain can birth connection, how reunion can occur between beings that never knew they were estranged until they are so close it was impossible to know how they existed before.
Guest More than 1 year ago
My mother read me this book 30 years ago. I recently rediscovered it and found that it is still fascinating, touching, and funny...even as an adult. My twins, aged 4, now love it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
When I first read this book, it did not even occur to me that it could be for children too! A lovely story/fairy tale that emphasizes what families are all about. (I get teary-eyed every time I read it.) Has a few illustrations too.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This story is about creating family, and a good lesson about choosing to love. Somewhat troubling that the "parent" characters steal one of their "children" away from his mother. Not much thought given to the impact of losing their first families on the three children.