Saturday, December 31, 2011

Words Make Meaning: Man Gave Names to All the Animals by Bob Dyland and Jim Arnovsky

He saw an animal that liked to growl,
Big furry paws and he liked to howl,
Great big furry back and furry hair.
‘Ah, think I'll call it a bear.'

Noted nature artist Jim Arnovsky, known for his highly accurate, yet individualistic representations of animals and plants, has taken a somewhat surprising author, Bob Dylan, as partner for the text in his newest, Man Gave Names to All the Animals (Sterling, 2011). From a song in his 1979 album "Slow Train Coming," the artist takes Dylan's wry and witty text as his narrative, but does not settle for a predictable two-page spread for each animal named. Instead, Arnovsky's pages swarm with animals in a Garden of Eden world.

Arnovsky's beasta crawl, dash, climb, slither, leap, soar and swim across the pages in a profusion of grace and beauty which celebrates the diversity of life. He does not hesitate to let the lion lie down with the lamb, so to speak, as he juxtaposes whales and crocs, lambs and lemurs, wild pigs and cockatoos, over 170 in all, in a lush sub-tropical forest with both mountains and shores for their habitat, giving the reader the fun of spying out the animal featured amidst the throng in the rhyming text.

The illustrator also provides an appendix listing all the animals shown, so that readers are drawn to continue the task of "naming" the animals depicted. Dylan's playful, sly, and sweet song is also provided as a CD within the book which will allow children to follow along with the pages, act out the verses, or sing along as they go. A different turn on the bestiary picture book, one with one foot in poetry and one in nonfiction, this one gives the reader the chance to become the final master of nomenclature by naming the last animal

I saw an animal as smooth as glass,
Slithering his way through the grass.
I saw him disappear by a tree near a lake.
I think I'll call him a ....

School Library Journal gives this one an unqualified thumbs up: "With its broad appeal to spiritual, scientific, and just plain animal-loving audiences, this book is a winner."

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