Children’s books written by celebrities are pretty conventional these days. So it’s strange that Bob Dylan — who’s gotten nothing if not weirder over the past few years — is publishing one. But in reality, Dylan’s latest children’s book was already written, back in 1979.
According a recent press release, “Man Gave Names to All the Animals,” a song from the album “Slow Train Coming,” is being illustrated by Jim Arnosky and published by Sterling Children’s Books (the same folks who brought you the book version of “Puff the Magic Dragon”).
“From the first time I heard it, the lyrics created pictures in my mind of a land of primeval beauty,” said Jim. “I thought this vision would make a dream of a book, and I asked for Bob Dylan’s permission to make this dream come true. Happily, he said yes.”
“Man Gave Names to All the Animals” is not the first Dylan song to inspire an illustrator. In 2008 Paul Rogers put drawings to the 1973 song “Forever Young,” evoking Dylan’s younger years in Greenwich Village.
In contrast, the biblically themed “Man Gave Names” comes out of Dylan’s late-seventies reinvention as a born again Christian, although it contains no explicit Christian references. It does, however, lend itself rather well to a children’s book: “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.”