a growl, a snort, and a roar: Man Gave Names to All the Animals


Look what just came out this Fall!

I was so excited when I first heard that artist/naturalist Jim Arnosky was going to create a picture book based on one of Dylan’s songs. I liked and reviewed Peter Yarrow’s Day is Done (illustrated by Melissa Sweet, also published by Sterling) last year, so I was confident this new book would be equally as beautiful.

Dylan’s song, “Man Gave Names to All the Animals,” a personal interpretation of Bible scripture (Genesis 2:19-20), was included on the first of his spiritual albums, Slow Train Coming (1979), produced soon after he became a born-again Christian.

The deceptively simple, whimsical lyrics, combined with their upbeat melody (a funky island rhythm), joyfully describe the naming of six animals: bear, cow, bull, pig, sheep, and snake. Offhand animal observations are interspersed with a highly infectious, primal chant-like chorus:

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.”

Man gave names to all the animals
In the beginning, in the beginning.
Man gave names to all the animals
In the beginning, long time ago.

This pattern continues until the very end, when the naming of the last animal, “smooth as glass/Slithering his way through the grass,” is left to the reader/listener. An abrupt end, a puzzle, and audience participation all in one — is Dylan merely being playful or asking us to ponder the evil serpent?

Arnosky, himself a long-time Dylan admirer, says in his intro, “From the first time I heard it, the lyrics created pictures in my mind of a land of primeval beauty, where the sky and earth were new, where plants first grew, and the animals knew no fear. I thought this vision would make a dream of a book, and I asked Bob Dylan’s permission to make this dream come true. Happily, he said yes.”

Arnosky’s lush, all-inclusive, expansive vision includes not six, but over 170 mammals, insects, fish, and birds, domestic and wild, living in peaceful harmony in habitats all over the world — from mountain to prairie to rainforest, rivers, lakes, oceans, and the wide, wide sky, radiant from dawn to dusk. His detailed, realistic acrylic paintings celebrate the diversity and wonder of all these beautiful creatures, and I love how Dylan’s witty, capricious tone is reflected in the animals’ expressions and postures, as well as in their surprising placements in the spreads.

In Arnosky’s primeval Eden, penguins cavort alongside a tiger, white-tailed deer graze with giraffes, a rooster shares a branch with a toucan and a sparrow. Without limits or preconceived notions, this peaceable kingdom inspires and delights with its timeless message. A list of the animals and a CD of the original recording are included for read along/sing along fun. This versatile keepsake (with science-nature-poetry-music applications) is suitable for all ages — kids will enjoy guessing and identifying the animals as they’re introduced to this Dylan song, while adult fans will fancy this refreshing trip down memory lane, with the opportunity to share their Dylan love with their children and grandchildren.


written by Bob Dylan
illustrated by Jim Arnosky
published by Sterling Children’s Books, September 2010
Full color Picture Book for ages 3+, 32 pp., with CD.
On shelves now.

♥ For more about Jim Arnosky’s work, including page by page answer keys for this book, click here.

♥ Visit the publisher’s website for an Activity Kit.

Interesting article by Matthew R. Perrine, editor of the Duluth Budgeteer News, who interviewed Arnosky about this book.

♥ Today’s Poetry Friday Roundup is being hosted by the lovely Amy at  The Poem Farm.

♥ This post is brought to you by Fauna, Forest, Fish, Fearless.

*Art used with permission from Man Gave Names to All the Animals, copyright © 2010 Jim Arnosky, Sterling Children’s Books. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2010 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan’s alphabet soup. All rights reserved.

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