Dylan tune from ‘Slow Train Coming’ inspires children’s bookJim Arnosky’s “Man Gave Names to All the Animals” (words by Bob Dylan) will be released Sept. 7 by Sterling Publishing.
Unlike other artists of his stature, Bob Dylan doesn’t have a lot of items marketed to children. The Beatles, in particular, have inspired countless items for the kiddies, including toys, lullaby albums and, coolest of all, bedding sets based on John Lennon sketches.
But all that is about to change for the Duluth native, as one of his songs, “Man Gave Names to All the Animals,” has been turned into a glorious picture book for Junior. Vermont-based author Jim Arnosky took the song’s colorful lyrics and paired them with equally vibrant paintings. (Bonus: Kids reading “Man Gave Names” at home get to follow along with the song’s lyrics, as the book comes with a CD containing the tune.)
“The song really sang out to me,” Arnosky told the Budgeteer. “I envisioned scenes filled with animals and children singing out the names of each animal at the end of each verse. But it was the chorus — ‘In the beginning, long time ago’ — that really hooked me and guided me throughout the illustrations for the book.
“I could have illustrated a whole book with that chorus alone.”
The track comes from 1979’s “Slow Train Coming,” the first of Dylan’s Christian-oriented releases during his “born-again” phase.
Arnosky, long a fan of the singer, said it’s a “great album.”
“I didn’t approach Dylan [about the book project]; that would have been daunting,” he said. “Happily, my agent was able to speak with his agent about my desire to illustrate the song and, after Dylan himself looked through a pile of my books, he gave us the go-ahead.”
Despite the unique nature of “Man Gave Names to All the Animals,” Arnosky hasn’t been sweating bullets about what people will think.
“The Dylan book is a big project, yes, but every new book is the next big thing for me,” he said. “I put everything I have into each book. That’s what makes them live for years.”
And the author has confidence “Man Gave Names” will be enjoyed by children for a long time too.
“That’s how good Dylan’s deceptively simple song is,” Arnosky said. “That’s what I tried to do justice to with my paintings for the verses. It was a joy creating this book.”
Arnosky said he was blessed that both Dylan and the book’s publisher, Sterling, granted him full creative freedom to interpret the song’s lyrics.
“I worked alone and presented what I came up with only after the art was finished,” the author said. “The publisher sent Dylan everything, from scans of the art to the breakdown and exact wording of the text to the ad copy and promotional materials, for him and his agent, Jeff Rosen, to give their input. Changes were made, but my art was accepted as is.”
Interestingly, Dylan’s song wasn’t the only thing Arnosky had playing while he was dreaming up the book’s images.
“I also listened to traditional African rhythms and songs, Native American music and the orchestral works of the English composer Frederick Delius, whose music has inspired me throughout my career,” he said. “… Music has always inspired me.”
Arnosky, himself a musician, writes songs about the wild animals and places he encounters with his wife, Deanna, while they’re out researching his books.
“I’ve written and illustrated 117 books so far,” the prolific author said. “Of them, a dozen or so began as songs. All my songs are highly rhythmic and tell a story.”
Next up for Arnosky is a picture book about the world’s largest and most powerful birds called “Thunder Birds.”
“I am very lucky to have a number of publishers willing to publish whatever I believe would be a good book,” he said. “And I am kept busy all the time, researching in the field then writing and illustrating my books.”
NEWS TO USE
Jim Arnosky’s “Man Gave Names to All the Animals” will be released Sept. 7 by Sterling Publishing. Find out more at www.sterlingpublishing.com/kids.
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