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The Animal Family

4.21 of 5 stars 4.21  ·  rating details  ·  724 ratings  ·  126 reviews
"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, a ...more
Published (first published 1965)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,433)
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Wendy Darling
Jan 09, 2012 Wendy Darling rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: oliviasbooks
Recommended to Wendy Darling by: Ceridwen Tomato
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 l
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.
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.

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 wi
Ben Loory
this right here is a perfect book. right here. perfect book.
j. ergo
Jan 10, 2015 j. ergo rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people
Recommended to j. ergo by: luck
this man was possibly capable of writing anything & writing it perfectly, & when i think about how he died, hit by a car (likely of his own design, maybe not) on a road i used to commute from chapel hill to durham daily, i am sometimes overcome to the point of tears. this is an amazing & beautiful book that is truly a fable being told for the first time, an original fairy tale set in an imaginary place, time & world, but created by a man in the twentieth century, something almost ...more
Jean Fendick
I started reading this to Katie and Mia, but had to finish it myself after the first night. We are reading this at bedtime after a few picture books so Mia usually falls asleep or just lies in bed singing to herself. It is an enjoyable story about the creation of a very unusual family which begins when a lone hunter meets a mermaid. Katie is fascinated and giddy with both the oddness and familiarities in the story.

Does anyone have any suggestions for reading bedtime stories to different ages? Ge
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 dif
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
What a sweet and interesting story! I expected more of an ending, but overall I really enjoyed this. I would have LOVED this as a child. My one question while I was reading is how did the mermaid get around so easily on land?

This was a Newbery Honor winner in 1966.
"That's what they called me. The one who lives with the animals."

My mother read this to me as a child & the memory of it has always been a warm light in my heart.

I finally decided read this on my own, as an adult. I was around four when my mom read it to me. It's so incredible to go back & re-read the books that carved us into who we are as people. And it's magical to think that after all these years, this story is almost exactly as I remembered it.

Books we love become part of who we a
Every once in a while, I pick this book up again so I can sink into its still and beautiful time-before-time. "Say what you like, but such things happen. Not often, but they do happen."
Too sophisticated to be a children's book, to simple to be for adults. I don't know what to do with it, but I love this lyrical, unexpected, and poetic book.
Daniel Jr.
I have just finished reading this book for the sixth or seventh time, and its power over me continues. It's simply gorgeous, an all-time favorite.
I got this for Christmas when I was 9 years old and I still love to read it. Touching, lovely, timeless.
An old friend, one of my favorite children's books ever.
Nov 30, 2014 Adam rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Children, Adults
Recommended to Adam by: John Cartan, Alex Hiatt
For the characters in Randall Jarrell's Animal Family, the world is a wondrous place, full of adventure and discoveries to be made, but also a familiar one, with all the comforts that implies. The world is new and thus nothing is surprising or shocking but everything is exceedingly fascinating. It should be needless to say that this is quite refreshing. It's a perspective we ought to take in our own lives, but which the conforming pressures of society and our own deeply entrenched habits of thou ...more
This book is totally amazing and weird, and the pictures are beautiful. It's at a low enough reading level for most intermediate ESOL students, I would think, or intermediate ABE readers, and it has a clear story. There aren't a lot of big questions in it, society-wise, although one could talk quite a bit about what makes a family, and what it is to leave your home and go to another land with another totally different way of life, and what it's like to have a mixed marriage. It's also sort of a ...more
I acquired this book in the seventh grade when a teacher was clearing out some shelves. I have always adored this book; its simple but tender prose, and the delightful story it tells. It is so innocent and pleasant, yet never seems to lose touch with the gravity of loneliness, sorrow, and death. I recommend this book to everyone, especially those who, like me, cannot maintain much of an attention span for books. You will love the enchanting history of Jarrell's inspiring and unexpected "animal f ...more
I picked up this dusty book at a used bookshop, drawn to the lilies on the cover more than anything else. Then when I saw it was illustrated by Maurice Sendak, I was sold.
What an amazing find. This story is so beautifully written, and in such a simple way, yet entirely unique. There really is no plot to this book beyond hunter meets mermaid meets bear meets lynx, finds kid. But it doesn't need one, the writing just carries you through this dream of sunlit meadows and shadowy forests, of dark fo
In gentle, coaxing tones, Mr. Jarrell invites the reader to believe in an impossible family. How this extraordinary family comes together, how they stay together in spite of obvious difficulties (you wonder how a full-grown bear can continue to come into a house and sit by the table), you are made to believe in the presence of a mermaid, a lonely hunter and the beings they gradually acquire around them who live in the harmony of their home. When an orphaned boy is added to the mix, his presence ...more
Nov 19, 2008 Faith rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who loves a good story
Recommended to Faith by: my dad
Shelves: timeless
Even though this book is very simple, it's wonderful for just that reason. The characters don't have names- they're just "The Hunter, The Mermaid, The Lynx, The Boy, and The Bear"- but to me they had such great personality they didn't need names. It's very short, with about five sentences a page, but the artwork and sweet story make up for it completely. Even though it is a story about a couple who ends up together and has an adopted family, it's more about love than romance.
Sophie Gray
This book is about a group of different animals and species that come together and move in together. Each of the characters are unique from one another as they are from a different part of the animal kingdom or a completely different species. While they bond together, they create a bond and begin to accept and adapt from one another. The meaning behind the book is to show the significance of friendship along with equality between each of the characters. This was a book that I enjoyed reading; lo ...more
I read this multiple times as a child and still love reading it as an adult. I found it while browsing the school library in elementary school. I love that it's about different kinds of creatures that all get along as a family. It taught me about embracing differences, although I didn't realize it as I was reading it the first time. Back then it was just a charming story. Now... well, it's still a charming story.
Jan 03, 2008 J rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: favorites
This book meant so much to me as a child. I found it packed away in a box of old favorites and wondered if my own children would sit still for it. With Harry Potter and friends for entertainment, I really didn't believe they would. It's a quiet story. I lined them up on the sofa anyway and began to read. They were mesmerized. They went unwillingly off to bed, begging for more, every night for a week. Beautiful.
Excellent. A lonely hunter gets himself, first, a most unusual wife out of the ocean and, second, a truly unique family out of the forest. Lovely writing, and a prefect book for reading aloud. Jarrell has real talent for evoking wonder and describing with great vividness the behavior of animals. This 1965 novel is a forgotten classic and worthy of being reprinted in, say, the NYRB-Kids line.
Odd little book. A love story about an unlikely couple, a hunter and a mermaid, and the animals and boy they adopt. Maurice Sendak (illustrator of Where the Wild Things Are) did pictures for it. Seems from reading other reviews people just love this book. It was charming, yes, well written, yes. I guess it's just not my style. I would read it to a child if I found it on a shelf but I wouldn't run out and buy a copy.

“The days went by for him, all different and all the same. The boy was happy, and
What a lovely gem of a book! I could definitely see how it would be even more enjoyable for a young child than it was for me; children have a capacity to make stories come alive in a way that most adults can't. I would very much enjoy being able to read this to my niece and nephew sometime.
Aug 30, 2007 Cordelia rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone
This book is simple; it is written by a poet to be read to children, but it contains wisdom deep enough to have me coming back to it my whole life through. It is beautiful. It describe my own quintissential definition of home.
Amy Jelenko
I have read this book a dozen or so times over the past 40 years. I find it absolutely perfect for what it is. Unconditional love is presented among the characters: animal, human, and otherwise; and a respectful, symbiotic relationship with nature that was prevalent at the time the book was written.

The style is simple and direct. The fairy tale style makes this a world utterly removed from our own, but with a sensibility we can identify with completely. Reading this book I feel magic is just be
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Randall Jarrell (1914-1965) wrote eight books of poetry, five anthologies, four children’s books illustrated by Maurice Sendak, four translations, including Faust: Part I and The Three Sisters (performed on Broadway by the Actor’s Studio), and a novel, Pictures from an Institution. He received the National Book Award for poetry in 1960, served as poet laureate at the Library of Congress in 1957 an ...more
More about Randall Jarrell...
The Bat-Poet Pictures from an Institution The Complete Poems Poetry and the Age Selected Poems

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“The days went by for him, all different and all the same. The boy was happy, and yet he didn't know that he was happy, exactly: he couldn't remember having been unhappy. If one day as he played at the edge of the forest some talking bird had flown down and asked him: "Do you like your life" he would not have known what to say, but would have asked the bird: "Can you not like it?” 3 likes
“She helped the hunter with the cooking as a husband helps his wife: when he had gone out to hunt and left something to stew, she would take the pot off the fire. But she never knew when to take it off; sometimes it was cooked to pieces, and she never got it right except by accident. But when the accident happened the hunter would laugh and say, "You're as good a cook as my mother!" After all, why should he want her to keep house? If you have a seal that could talk, would you want it to sweep the floor?” 0 likes
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