The Animal Family By Randall Jarrell

REVIEW The Animal Family

I came across this title in a recent edition of the HB magazine. It sat on my shelf at work, and then I brought it home, and it sat some more on top of the chest of drawers. And then I started reading it. First, in spurts -- but those short spurts were enough to want to make me continue. I found out a bit about the author, who was, not surprisingly from the lyrical quality of this book, an American poet - who translated both Chekov and Goethe. And it shows:

The hunter and the mermaid were so different from each other that it seemed to them, finally, that they were exactly alike; and they lived together and were happy.

This book tells the story of a man who lives on an island until he meets a mermaid - who decides to stay with him for a spell - a long spell, interspersed with visits to her sea people. They are self-sufficient, and by chance and planning, end up making a family with a bear, a lynx and a little human child.

The Animal Family makes a great read-aloud for boys and girls aged 5 to 9 or so (the HB article's subject was just such books). It may feel a bit slow to some because of its rhythm that relies more on episodes of story rather than a single plot; but the language and the thoughtfulness of the happenings make for a kind of magic in reading, enhanced subtly by the signature-style pen and ink illustrations of Maurice Sendak, which are equally contemplative and impersonal. The prose and the pictures make you reflect upon things, or no-things, as the case could be. By the time you reach the end of the novel, you feel like you've lived your own entire life in those pages. The day ahead of you, this moment now, feels different. 9780062059048 Very wholesome!

I read this story for my creative writing class (discussing it tomorrow). I don't know if I have a different version (mine is printed differently), but this story reads almost like a children's book, but the quality of the writing and the happiness of it is easily 10/10!

I believe this fits the found family trope and the most enjoyable homework reading I have had so far this semester!! :D 9780062059048 My only regret about this book is that I didn't come across it sooner. Lucky the child (or adult) that has this book read to them! I am going to promptly purchase this for my granddaughter and any new little people that come my way.
Here is how the story is introduced:

Say what you like, but such things do happen-not often, but they do happen.

Here is an excerpt in which the mermaid is explaining to the hunter the difference between living in the sea and living on land:

Sometimes the sea is rough, sometimes it's calm, but down underneath it's always the same.
They (the creatures of the sea) don't know how to be bored or miserable. One day is one wave, and the next day is the next, for the sea people-and whether they're glad or whether they're sorry, the sea washes it away. When my sister died, the next day I'd forgotten and was happy. But if you died, my heart would break.
When it storms for the (sea) people, no matter how terrible it storms, the storm isn't real-swim down a few strokes and it's calm there, down there it's always calm. And death is no different, if it's someone else who dies. We say, 'Swim away from it'; we swim away from everything.
But on land it's different. The storm's real, here, and the red leaves, and the branches when they're bare all winter. It all changes and never stops changing, and I'm here with nowhere to swim to, no way ever to leave it or forget it. No, the land's better! The land's better!

Read this with/to anyone you love. 9780062059048 As followers of this blog know, I am attempting to read all the books featured in the Backlisted podcast and dividing them into phases (every 10 books consist of a phase). I’m now starting the third one and it’s a strong one.

The Animal Family can be described as delightful: A hunter finds a mermaid and she lives with him. After a bear and a lynx join the crew with a boy entering the fold.

That’s it really.

No adventures, no conflict, no villain. It’s just a bunch of unconventional individuals trying to live a conventional lifestyle as a family. We all know a family can comprise of any group and one can’t get a better example than this.

The book itself is a charming piece of work. The writing is clear and a little bit humor dotted in places. For it’s brevity (125 pages), The Animal Family packs a lot of emotion and one can’t help liking all the characters. My only gripe is that it’s out of print and I really do think this should achieve classic status.

9780062059048 Ok, this is the second time I've read this. I believe child me would have liked it. Now, I don't know what to think... it's like an elusive dream... it seems like just a series of anecdotes about how each new member of the family arrives and becomes integrated, but surely there's a deeper resonance that makes it worthy of a Newbery Honor.

Don't be put off by the page count. It's a small book, with huge margins, and can be read by an adult in one sitting.

I'd love to know what a family who reads it aloud together thinks about it.

3rd read, August 2020, we're actually discussing in the Children's Books group in the Newbery club.

It's just as poetic and mysterious and lovely as I remember from the other times I've read it.

I like the book design. Plenty of pages, not too many illustrations, but not many words on each page. It slows down the readers, makes them think about the words and ideas.

I love the subtle characterizations. Somehow we figure out the hunter's nature while being told very little about him, or even spending much time with him. He had a happy childhood, his parents are dead, he's lonely, he's patient, he's not self-centered...

I love the writing style, too. The mermaid had learned the hunter's words, but she said them to the sea's tune.

I think there's a lot of metaphor and deep themes going on here.

I mean, an easy idea is that even the hunter and mermaid are 'animals.' After all, how else can we readers reconcile our unease with him killing for all those furs he uses to outfit his bed and floor, and with her catching and eating raw fish as she swims, just as another fish would, with our desire to empathize with and like or admire them?

But there's more depth, isn't there?

For example, why, at the end, do they tell ?

And why exactly does the mermaid choose to be basically imprisoned in the cottage? She 'pushes herself along' or gets carried to go anywhere. But the hunter holds her by no word or action or behavior. She says, late in the book, that she finds the consistency of life under the sea boring, but I think the author had something more in mind.

And what did the Newbery committee find to honor? *I* think the book worthy of note for it's poetry and thoughtfulness, but it's atypical of what is usually chosen for Newbery recognition, at least until this date. 9780062059048


this right here is a perfect book. right here. perfect book. 9780062059048 A hunter lives alone by the shore. Once he had parents, but they died, probably when he was quite young. Perhaps he has never had any other human contact, we aren't told; he seems to be familiar with some norms like men don't wear necklaces but he doesn't know what velvet is... this question isn't central, I just wonder given his loneliness why there's no question of looking for other people. Maybe he would have left eventually had he not met a mermaid. 9780062059048
This book is slow (in a good way), mellow and sweet. It reminds me very much of the tv series Little Bear. There isn't any great drama -- just a lovely story that explores the nature of family, and the importance of having a family to belong to.

I found the mermaid in this story to be an especially wonderful character. She is happy all the time, accepting that life throws a few unexpected problems into the mix, and understanding that the best way of dealing with those problems is by working with what you have rather than by complaining about what you don't have.

This might be a fun story to read with children, although some of the ideas and themes may be a little too complex for them. Death is also dealt with, in a very straightforward manner -- some children might still find these scenes upsetting.

Highly recommend.

9780062059048 20120811
Fantastic book. I read it to E and L. At one point, I was (ahem) overcome by the story, and got a bit choked up. This made for a very confusing moment for E and L. She followed suit, but then to deal with the trauma of seeing his father cry at a children's story, E began to laugh. This became a preferable option to L as well. As long as I had trouble getting it together, they both laughed at me. Me crying, my children laughing at me -- standard parental operating procedure. 9780062059048 What an exquisite little gem this book is. I have been bemoaning the lack of great mermaid stories far and wide, and though I've tried a great many, none have ever even touched on the surface of the enchantment and mystery that I'd hoped for until the gracious Ceridwen whispered in my ear about The Animal Family. This isn't really strictly a mermaid tale, however, it's really a deceptively simple but layered story of a family that is not born, but made.

Once upon a time, there was a hunter who lived alone in the woods, dreaming of those who have left him behind. In just a few pages, the author shows us the hunter's loneliness and makes us want things for him that perhaps he doesn't even let himself dream of.

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 it was like his mother singing.

Then one evening, as he stands out by the seal rocks on the shore, he hears a song being sung without words. the hunter stared 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.

The hunter and mermaid of course make a life together, and they add to their family with some very unexpected and funny choices. The imagery is evocative and quite beautiful, and the ideas and language were at times so clever that I was chortling as I turned the pages.

This is a story written in the traditional lovely, lyrical prose of old-fashioned fairy tales, and one that readers of classics will very much appreciate. The book was published in 1965 and was declared a timeless and universal story as reviewed for the New York Times Book review by none other than P.L. Travers, who also said Occasionally, very rarely--like the spirit of delight--comes a book that is not so much a book but a kind of visitation. I had not known that I was waiting for The Animal Family, but when it came it was as though I had long been expecting it.

I had no idea I was waiting for this book either, but I'm very glad it finally came. 9780062059048

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. The Animal Family