Just So Stories

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Just so stories

KIPLING, Rudyard (text) Robert Ingpen (illus.) Just So Stories Walker, 2013 191pp $39.95 ISBN 9781922077493 SCIS 1630807

This hardback edition of the Just So Stories provides a lavishly illustrated introduction to these charming and humorous tales about the origins of various animals and their unique qualities.  Generations of readers have been drawn into these stories by Kipling’s masterful use of language and rhythm; his fanciful word play and rollicking prose dance and stomp across the page, bringing characters and scenes vividly to life.  And so we learn, among other things, how the curious Elephant’s Child gained his trunk, how the greedy Rhinoceros lost his wrinkle-free hide, and how the clever Cat that Walked by Himself earned his place by the fire.  As in the best children’s books, the repetition of memorable words and phrases in these stories will have young listeners eagerly anticipating moments such as the eventual tussle between the Elephant’s Child and the Crocodile on ‘the banks of the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River, all set about with fever-trees’.  Kipling’s works, however, have often been criticised for their moralistic tone and colonialist attitude.  While these stories are of their time, they should be read in the same spirit as classic nursery rhymes and enjoyed for their boisterous introduction to the many joys of language.

Robert Ingpen’s delicately rendered, full-colour illustrations also imbue Kipling’s characters with a beautiful, quiet dignity that will encourage children to appreciate the different animals, races and cultures presented.  Printed on thick, high-quality paper, this is a book that should outlast the many re-readings it deserves.  To be read aloud to ages 4+, or for independent readers 8+.

reviewed by Ros Kirk

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