CM . . .
. Volume XX Number 30. . . .April 4, 2014
Six more of Rudyard Kipling’s fanciful tales that pretend to explain the origins of things in our world are offered in the second of a two-volume set accompanied by the bold and vibrant illustrations of Ian Wallace.
All 12 of Kipling’s stories were originally published in 1902, three years after the death of one of his daughters for whom he had created them. This volume contains “The Beginning of the Armadilloes” [sic] relating how the hedgehog and the turtle were transformed into armadillos, “How the First Letter Was Written” and “How the Alphabet was Made”, the only stories in which the same characters star, “The Crab That Played with the Sea” which purports to explain the ebb and flow of the tides, “The Cat That Walked by Himself” that explains how man tamed all animals bar the cat, and “The Butterfly That Stamped” in which a butterfly’s pride is saved and Suleiman-bin-Daoud deals with his troublesome wives. Each is accompanied by a poem. All are told in Kipling’s amusing, creative and larger-than-life writing style, sprinkled with exaggerated and inventive expression. There is also a little sardonic commentary about society that adults will love even if it flies above a child’s head!
Once again, illustrator Ian Wallace has brought his own powerful creativity to the compelling nature of Kipling's imagination. Four media (watercolour, pencil crayon, pastel pencil and chalk) are used in various combinations with a predominant colour for each story depending on the environmental setting of the tale. Characters from other stories connect the tales: e.g. the leopard butterfly makes a cameo appearance throughout before it becomes a protagonist in the last story, and we catch a glimpse of the Elephant Child and the Camel (sans hump) from the first volume. The full page plates are rich and as magically fanciful as the stories themselves, full of details that enhance the whimsy and playfulness of the yarns. As in the first volume, Ian Wallace adds an addendum, explaining his approach to the illustration of each story, an addition that serious bibliophiles will love. Kipling created his own illustrations for the first edition of the Just So Stories, but I am sure he would have been delighted to see his stories interpreted in the twenty-first century by Ian Wallace.
These stories with their clever humour, rich vocabulary, innate rhythm and glimpses of different worlds are timeless. Both volumes in this new version of Kipling's classic stories, so ably complemented by Wallace's bold strong artwork, bring awareness of the stories to a new generation. A great read-aloud for library programmes, classrooms and family story-times that children aged five to eleven will thrill to.
Aileen Wortley is a retired librarian from Toronto, ON.
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