Book Finds: The Animal Family by Randall Jarrell, Maurice Sendak (Illustrator)

On one of my recent outings culling through library sales and discount book sections I stumbled on The Animal Family by Randall Jarrell with illustrations by Maurice Sendak. Given that Sendak would have turned 85 today (see the Google doodle) I thought it would be a good time to post on this little book.

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.

A lonely hunter living in the wilderness beside the sea gains a family made up of a mermaid, a bear, a lynx, and a boy.

You can see why I picked it up (other than its $1 price tag): classic children’s story/fairy tale with equally classic illustrations.

And it turned out to be a quick and enjoyable read.  A simple yet charming tale of how a lonely hunter ended up with a family; and a far from ordinary one at that.

It is full of joy, wonder and innocence (albeit against a subtle background of loss and loneliness).  Each character explores the world of the hunter and his cabin in their own unique way and thus shares with the reader different ways of approaching the world. The hunter, initially desperate for companionship, finds joy in each new addition to the family and the growing family enlarges and reflects this joy.

The illustrations my Maurice Sendak add to the charm. Would make a good bed time story I think (I have yet to try it out on my family).

The-Animal-Family-The-Boy-web The Animal Family

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).

1 Comment

  1. I discovered Randall Jarrell while I was in college in the 1960’s. I was an elementary school librarian for 42 years. The children would always ask me what was my favorite book in the librarian. I told them that I had many, many books that delighted me, but if I was forced to choose, it would be The Animal Family. To my mind, it is a perfect book, imbued with genius. And my 5th graders always loved for me to read it aloud and fought over who would check out the book. I eventually solved the problem by buying a set of ten!

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