on March 10, 2004
If you enjoy language and good story-telling this book belongs on your bookshelf. I've been reading the stories to my seven-year-old daughter who eats them up. Yes, the vocabulary is challenging - it isn't Berenstain Bears! But there is a time for "I Can Read" books and a time for "Read to Me" books. This will challenge kids and their imaginations, especially if they love animals like my kids do. And it's not just for kids - I love the stories too! Buy it!
on July 8, 2004
I recently purchased this set on cd with a gift certificate for my young daughter. The price tag may have put me off at any other time, but since I was getting it with a certificate, I went for it. I read these stories cover to cover repeatedly as a little girl and took great delight in the hilarity of the answers to such questions as "how did the leopard get his spots?" or "how did the camel get his hump?" Kipling's stories are marvelously nonsensical - which makes them fit for a child's world. However, it was not until hearing them read aloud on this very set that I realized his rhyme and use of repetitive words or phrases is very similar to our modern master of children's literature: Dr. Seuss. It would not surprise me to find that Seuss took his inspiration from the works of Kipling. This is not striking to a reader, but as you listen to his words brought to life by the human voice it is hard to miss.
Geoffrey Palmer, of As Time Goes By, is one of my favorite actors. His voice and interpretation of these beautiful stories enhances the experience so much that I was laughing out loud listening to him in my car. His dry sense of humor is felt in his characterizations of the cast and the lulling of his voice lends a calming, gentle, and sophisticated quality to the text. I now can simply not imagine these stories being read by anybody else.
Finally, the classical musical selection is superb and adds an intelligent whimsiness to the piece. I would highly recommend this set as a lovely gift for any child you find "tenacious and full of segacity". What a delightful alternative to the screech of today's cartoons and children's "pop" albums full of Britney Spears remakes.
on May 1, 2001
Considered aloof and even irascible by reporters and adoring fans, Rudyard Kipling was admittedly a private person. Despite his reputation as a recluse during his four-year Vermont sojourn, he was genuinely fond of children. With paternal tenderness and pride he wrote this anthology of 12 unrelated tales for the amusement and enlightenment of his oldest, American-born daughter. A hint of their sacred relationship is revealed in "How the First Letter was Written" and "How the Alphabet was Made," wherein readers savor the loving bonds between cavegirl, Taffy, and her devoted father, Tegumi.
Many serious critics refuse to consider this collection of animal fables--which satirize human vices and foibles--as true literature, unworthy of adult time or mental effort to be appreciated. Nevertheless, it takes a different arsenal of literary skills to write well for children, who demand more action and clever dialogue; they expect to be hooked right away into whatever plot. It takes an agile mind plus a youthful heart to hold kids' attention over thousands of words and several pages--even with illustrations by the multi-talented author. (Seek those editions which offer the additional lure of Kipling's own pen and ink sketches.)
Don't be swayed by any rhetoric you may have heard about Kipling's so-called Politics, either. His social opinions frequently are blown out of proportion or taken out of context. In any case they are irrelevant to the intent of his anthology. Other than a few socially-incorrect phrases, JUST SO STORIES proves an excellent chapter-by-chapter bedtime book, especially for parents under fire to answer the inevitable questions which explain why a particular animal looks or acts the way it does. The author has bravely tackled that problem--taking adults off the inevitable Why hook. Using his palette of unlimited vocabulary, Kipling creates his own imaginative, drole and delightful expressions. Even if as adults we find his linguistic patchwork difficult to understand at times, most children will enter the word game eagerly. JUST SO STORIES offers a cute read for all YAHOOS--those who are truly Young At Heart or Otherwise!
I especially recommend these stories as read-alouds. The narration is written directly to the listener and the use of repetition make these stories ideal read-aloud material. There are 12 stories in the book and we've been reading one story every day. Many of the stories are fanciful tales of how an animal received one of it's special characteristics, such as How the Camel Got its Hump and these were our favourite ones. Ds just laughed and laughed through these and I enjoyed them just as much as he did. This was my first time reading this book though I have previously read Kiplings' Kim and The Jungle Books. Lots of fun!
on November 5, 2003
The just so stories
By: Rudyard Kipling Published by: William Morrow and Company
This book O best beloved (meaning you, in the language that the author used) is a short story book that has many adventures to it and the one that I'm going to tell you about is the story called, The Beginning of the Armadillos. This plot takes us to the steamy jungles of the Amazon rain forest in South America in the Northern part of Brazil. Also in this plot there lives a painted jaguar, a stickly-prickly hedgehog, and slow and solid tortoise. Now O best beloved (meaning you) this particular jaguar isn't very bright so he goes to his mother for advice on how to eat the hedgehog and the tortoise. Well, as any mother would, she tells him ohhh, so many times graciously waving her tail, "Painted Jaguar to catch the hedgehog you must dip him the water so he will uncoil and you must scoop the tortoise out of it's shell with your paw, got it?!" So he goes to the river to find the hedgehog and the tortoise so he can eat them. The first time they barely got away by confusing him. The hedgehog and the tortoise confuse him by messing up what his mother told him. But the second time Painted Jaguar is confused just by looking at them. You'll have to read it to believe it.
As you know, in this particular story you are introduced to a hedgehog named Stickly-Prickly and a tortoise named Slow and Solid. As you might see these two unique animals are very close and have the same predators. In this story Stickly-Prickly hedgehog and Slow and Solid tortoise are being hunted by a creature named Painted Jaguar, as you know, who is not too smart and has spots. Now since Stickly-Prickly and Slow and Solid were able to fool the jaguar once they want to make him so confused that he won't know which is which just by looking at them. So day after day they teach one another how the other works, like Stickly-Prickly teaches Slow and Solid to curl up and Slow and Solid teaches Stickly-Prickly how to swim. After they have done that and are comfortable with their skills they wait for Painted Jaguar to come looking for them but they don't know that they will never be the same again. Stickly-Prickly hedgehog and Slow and Solid tortoise help this particular story because they are smart and they fool the jaguar and they surprise the reader with their cunning and hard work.
This book has been really fun in the fact that there is more than one story in the book and for me more than one story meant that it was a page turner. The story that I described in this book review was easy to concentrate on because I liked it so much. Some stories in this book were just plain old boring so it was harder to read them . The thing that caught my attention was the language that the author used in the book, I thought that the language was very unique and very funny. To tell the truth I thought that there weren't very many surprises at all, the only surprises would be all the purposes of the story that was being told, like how the camel got his hump or the beginning of the Armadillos. To me they make the language in the book fun, like Oh best beloved and stickly-prickly and slow and solid. The people who might like this book would have to have a sense of humor, so if they have that then the person reading this book will have a very fun time indeed.
Let me make it clear that I am reviewing the Signet Classics version of Just So Stories. The reason I say that is because the original versions of these stories contain material that would be offensive to most people today, but the worst of that has been removed from this edition. The other advantage of this version is that it contains Kipling's own illustrations and his captions for those illustrations. Finally, this version is also very inexpensive.
These stories were told to Kipling in their original form when he was a child by his Indian nursemaids. They are drawn from many non-Western sources, and provide good contrasts with European fairy tales. In most cases, the stories are about animals or early human beings and their development into their modern form or capabilities. But they are really satires on human weaknesses, with the moral showing how overcoming a weakness will usually create a strength.
Here are the stories and their morals:
How the Whale Got His Throat -- If you get too greedy, you will bite off more than you can chew. By taking on less at a time, you can absorb more in total.
How the Camel Got His Hump -- If you are lazy and procrastinate, you will just have to do without in the future and be less attractive in order to make up for it. Having resources for times of scarcity is always helpful.
How the Rhinoceros Got His Skin -- Being too aggressive will cause you to experience retribution from those you harm. With more flexibility, you can be more agile.
How the Leopard Got His Spots -- You have a better chance of success if you blend in, rather than trying to stand out individually too much.
The Elephant's Child -- If you are too nosy, you can get into mischief. Having a keen nose can help you sniff out and execute more opportunities.
The Sing-Song of Old Man Kangaroo -- Be careful what you wish for, you may get it. Being boundless gives you the chance to explore more.
The Beginning of the Armadillo -- Versatility is more valuable than knowing just one way to handle a situation.
How the First Letter Was Written -- Miscommunication is easier to accomplish than correct communication. Double-check to be sure the message is understood.
How the Alphabet Was Made -- Choose combinations of communication that are unambiguous, or you will find yourself confusing everyone. This story is a brilliant essay on how one might go about inventing written language.
The Crab that Played with the Sea -- Consider the consequences of your actions before you act, or you may see the actions rebound against you.
The Cat that Walked by Himself -- The benefits of helping others greatly improve one's own life.
The Butterfly that Stamped -- Actions taken for the right reason have just consequences while actions taken for pride tend to boomerang against us.
Each story contains a prose tale, followed by a brief poem. The illustrations are explained in the caption at the end.
The style of the stories includes lots of funny repetition, especially in the names of rivers and the features of the animals being described. With each repetition, your smile will broaden until you cannot suppress a good laugh.
The stories also use the term "best beloved" a lot. What a delightful way to refer to the child to whom you are reading these stories! That would be reason enough to introduce these stories to your children. The phrase "just so" is used less often, but has a nice cadence as well, like a carpenter planing down a piece of wood to fit perfectly into an item being constructed.
Since these "pretend" stories obviously are counter to the latest scientific knowledge, you will probably want to introduce the relevant science to your child, too, at some point. Then you can ask your child why she or he thinks that Kipling made up these stories. This will give you a chance to talk about the implications for people. Be sure to give your child an opportunity to develop his or her own interpretations. Those will be much more useful and memorable than any that you could provide. Try to use questions to lead your little learner forward.
See the opportunities that the proper balance provides!
on November 6, 2000
Kipling's JUST SO STORIES certainly rank in English-speaking children's literature right along with A. A. Milne's WINNIE THE POOH and Kenneth Grahame's WIND IN THE WILLOWS. They are fun to read to children 4-8, and even MORE fun for them to read for themselves at ages 7-11 (they're marvelous vocabulary builders --"the mariner of infinite resource and sagacity" <grin>). My English-raised mother heard the stories when they were new and read them to me when I was a child, I read them to my own children, they read them to theirs, and I believe that same cycle has been repeated among millions of families since the stories appeared at the beginning of the 20th century.
It is my impression that today the JUST SO STORIES do not enjoy the popularity with children (and parents) that they once had. That may be because they are occasionally "politically incorrect" in their depiction of historical attitudes regarding race and culture. Joel Chandler Harris's UNCLE REMUS stories and even Mark Twain's HUCKLEBERRY FINN are sometimes removed from local library shelves on the same basis. In this reviewer's view, inattention to the works of Kipling and Harris and Twain deprives English-speaking children of some appreciation of the culture and civilization in which they live today. Worse yet, it deprives them of the fun of reading FOR fun.
Rudyard Kipling, referred to by one reviewer here as "not a very good writer" was the first English writer to win the Nobel Prize (not the Pulitzer) for literature, in 1907. He was staunchly pro-Empire in an era in which Great Britain not only ruled the waves, but a third of the globe -- the sun never set, it was said, on the British Empire, of which he sang in hundreds of poems and short stories and novels which also deserve reading today.
But imperial/colonialist notes are hard to hear in the JUST SO STORIES, which Kipling wrote for the amusement of a young niece. The stories are meant for FUN, and all children deserve to have some. Get this book; read it yourself if you haven't already -- and then read it to the youngsters for whom Kipling intended it.
on July 30, 1998
I love this book, and loved it as a child, for the writing, the stories, and for the pictures which I could pore over again and again, looking for new details I missed previously. I have remembered and talked about many of the stories throughout my life, particularly The Cat Who Walks by Himself, and The Elephant's Child. I also like . . . oh, well, there are just too many to talk about. Read them for youself, and to your kids.
The stories are complex and mysterious and, though I can't say much for Kipling's politics, I find them delightful. I think most children will, too. As an adult, I couldn't get my mother to part with my childhood copy so I went out and bought one of my own.
on September 25, 2001
Kiplingï¿½s classic volume of stories concerns the great questions of history; How the Whale got his Throat, How the Camel got his Hump, How the Alphabet was Made and many other thorny dilemmas. The language is sophisticated yet often whimsical and children love to hear the words read aloud. It is tempting to scan ahead and change things, substitute more contemporary phrases for the old but, if you can, resist the urge. Kipling was a master of the language. His writing is balanced and fluid and while it may seem dated when taken piece by piece, its sum is far greater than its parts. Read The Cat that Walked by Himself and you will never look at your own pet in quite the same way again.
on July 26, 2000
Rudyard Kipling was not a great writer, but he was a pretty good story-teller, as this collection makes clear. His sentiments, however, are hopelessly mawkish, cloyingly middle-class and really very racist. To put in another way, Kipling was very much a man of his times and background, an Anglo-Indian, fiercly pro-Empire and anti-wog. His stories, especially those made familiar to us by Walt Disney, are quite charming and still stand up to a quick read at bedtime. It perhaps most telling of Kipling's career that he was a celebrity on an international scale, and won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1907, but is now best remembered for movies starring Shirley Temple and Sabu.