Showing posts with label Rudyard Kipling. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Rudyard Kipling. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Puck of Pook's Hill by Rudyard Kipling

Rating: WARTY!

I've enjoyed more than one book by Kipling, but not this one I'm sorry to report. The first problem is with the title, because the book barely features Puck. It uses him instead as an introduction to history, and each chapter gives a concocted history lesson about a period in British history. The first two or three chapters cover the aftermath of the Norman invasion when William the Conqueror beat King Harald at Hastings, and the Normans took over Britain. Yes, everyone was called Norman. No, I'm kidding, of course.

The story covers one fictional character named Sir Richard, who takes over a manor as his spoils and fortunately happens to be a moderate and just lord. But that's all the story is. There isn't anything special about it, and while it may well have entertained children - or more accurately, the boys at which it's aimed - in Kipling's time, it really doesn't have anything to say to modern children because it's not even a good history lesson. I suspect the book tells us more about the history of Kipling's boyhood passions than ever it would about British history in general.

The next section goes even further and is about gorilla warfare - literally. It takes us back into Viking times and relates something about the endless Viking incursions into British coastal villages, raping and pillaging as they were wont to do. They somehow get blown off course and end up skirting the coast of Africa and encountering gorillas, who they view as hairy people.

Kipling appallingly and shamefully misrepresents gorillas. This was no more or less than people thought at a time when gorillas were kept in brutally disgraceful conditions in Edwardian zoos, but I expected something better and different from him. It wasn't forthcoming. The story dragged on and was boring, and it was at this point that I gave up on this book. I can't commend it as a worthy read.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Kim by Rudyard Kipling

Rating: WARTY!

I've enjoyed several of this author's works, but I could not get with him on this one. I positively reviewed The Elephant's Child in February 2018, and his Just So Stories in December of 2014, and I even enjoyed the Jungle Book stories related to Mowgli, which admittedly I did as research for a novel, but nevertheless! This one was boring, I'm sorry to report.

Set in the late nineteenth century, this story has a great plot to begin with: Kim is Kimball O'Hara, an orphan whose Irish father and mother are both dead. He continues to live in poverty as did his parents, and earns a living (if you can call it that) from begging and running errands on the streets of Lahore, which nowadays is a major city in Pakistan in the Punjab pradesh. Kipling's story was set before the partition. Kim is so much a part of the local culture that he is routinely mistaken for a native. He sometimes does jobs for Mahbub Ali, who is a Pashtun horse dealer, but who also works for the British secret service.

Kim attaches himself to a Tibetan lama and begins traveling with him as the lama seeks to free himself from the never-ending wheel of life and achieve enlightenment, For some reason this necessitates a quest to find a certain body of water, but Kim is separated from the lama and sent to school when it's discovered that he is a British subject. Somehow this impoverished lama-beggar funds his education, and after he is done with school, he rejoins the lama on a trip, the lama still traveling, Kim now spying for the British government.

I never made it that far though, because the story bored the salwar off me. I cannot commend it as a worthy read.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

The Last Jungle Book by Stephen Desberg, Henri Reculé

Rating: WARTY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

In Rudyard Kipling's original Jungle Book stories, Mowgli is first introduced as a wild man living in the forest who is recruited into the forest ranger service because of his extraordinary jungle craft. He marries, has a child, and returns to the forest. In later stories, his childhood is related, but it really isn't quite like the sanitized Disney version (is anything?!).

I was very disappointed in this version, which let's face it is more of an introduction than a story. The blurb was completely misleading in that it suggests that Mowgli (rhymes with cow-glee) has returned to the scene of his childhood to write the last chapter in it - which I presumed would the the dispatch of his hated enemy Shere Khan (which means 'Tiger Chief', not 'lame'! 'Lungri' means lame - it was a nickname for Khan, who was lame). The problem is that none of this happens, nor will it since Mowgli is a silver-haired old man now in this story.

All we get is a pictorial re-telling of the popular version of Jungle Book with nothing new added. It makes Mowgli's vow at the end - to drape Shere Khan's pelt over the council rock of the wolves, all the more hollow, since no such thing ever happened in this story. It did happen in the original jungle books stories - not the draping but the capture of the pelt, so maybe there are more volumes to come, but even if there are, I was so disillusioned with this one that I have no interest in reading any more. This contributed nothing new, and while the artwork was acceptable and the writing not awful, neither of these offered anything truly new, original, or outstanding.

I can see why this was on Net Galley's 'Read Now' shelf. I cannot recommend it. I'd recommend going to Kipling's original material and reading that - and I believe it's all out of copyright now if you're looking for story ideas!

Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Elephant's Child by Rudyard Kipling, Karen Baiker, Davin Cheng

Rating: WORTHY!

This is a Rudyard Kipling story adapted by Karen Baiker, and illustrated nicely by Davin Cheng. I reviewed Kipling's Just So Stories a long time ago on this blog, and this one was included in that book under the title How the Elephant Got His Trunk which is the subtitle of the present story. As this newer author and illustrator have shown here, there is probably a rich and free vein of children's stories to be mined there now that Kipling is out of copyright. I'm going to get on it right away. Kidding! I have too much on my plate as it is.

The story is that of an annoyingly curious young elephant who, as all elephants did back then of course, had a snub nose. He was constantly asking questions of his older relatives: the baboon (who is shown incongruously hanging from a tree for which baboons are not really well-known!), the giraffe, the hippo, but none of them can spare him any time, so he takes the advice of a very possibly maliciously-inclined bird, who advises him that his last question, 'what do crocodiles eat?', could best be answered by hiking over to the Limpopo river and asking a croc directly.

The elephant in his innocence thinks this is a brill idea and heads off forthwith. The croc advises him that he will not only be happy to tell him, he will show him what he's going to eat for dinner and snaps at the elephant. This was very probably the first sound bite. Or perhaps more likely, an unsound bite since the croc only manages to grab the elephant's nose. In the ensuing tug of war, the nose is stretched and stretched of course (you knew this was coming, didn't you?!).

Unlike his elders, the young elephant is happy to take the time to relate his story of how his nose grew so long. And there you have it! So while this isn't an original story, it is nicely told and beautifully illustrated, and it's in a nice, so I recommend it.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling

Title: Just So Stories
Author: Rudyard Kipling
Publisher: Tower Publishing
Rating: WORTHY!

Read by 2011 Best Voice in children and family listening: Jim Weiss

I always associate these stories with Watership Down which I reviewed in September. The two have nothing in common (other than that they're charming stories about animals), except that I associate them because they were both given to me as a birthday gift a long time ago (Thanks Ruth!). I have to say that these are hugely entertaining (not all of them, I found a couple to be a bit boring), and in large part I have to ascribe this not only to Kipling, but also to the reader of the audio book, Jim Weiss, who went way above and beyond the call of duty in relating these tales! Now that's what I call a performance!

Just So Stories was first published in 1902 and is remarkable for how well it’s aged. These children's stories sound just as good today as they no doubt did then and even before then, when Kipling's nurses told them to him as a child. Kipling won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1907 and is still the youngest recipient to receive it, as well as being the very first English language recipient of it.

The essence of these stories is the fantastical; they're completely absurd tales about how various animals (and human animals are the subject of three stories) got to be the way they are today. There are twelve stories in all in the volume to which I had access to; the original publication, however, had one more story: The Tabu Tale, which according to wikipedia is missing from most British editions of these stories (as well as mine!). Why, I do not know, but it's another story about Taffimai, and you can read it here at wikisource, Best Beloved.

How the Camel Got His Hump relates that the camel was the most idle creature in all creation until the dog and the ox and others complained, whereupon the creator Djin resorted to ordering it to work, and giving it a hump of food so it had no excuse to stop for a meal break.

How the Rhinoceros got his Skin is a ridiculous story relating how the Rhino was perfectly ordinary but rather kleptomaniacal, and ended up with a disheveled-looking skin because it stole a cake, and the victim garnered revenge by filling the Rhino's skin (when he took it off to go for a swim) with cake crumbs, causing all kinds of unrelieved itchiness when the Rhino put it back on again, later.

How the Leopard Got His Spots is as a result of their being really poor at hunting zebras and giraffes when the latter two got their spots and stripes and became so well hidden. The answer lies with an Ethiopian who was friends with the leopard and suffered an equal lack of hunting success.

How the Elephant got his Trunk. The answer to this lies with a very curious elephant child and a rather feisty crocodile. Perhaps you can fill in the blanks, but maybe not as well as Kipling did.

The Sing-Song of Old Man Kangaroo tells us how this antipodean animal came to have such a weird appearance and such a rare (among tetrapods) method of locomotion. There's a dingo involved. But isn't there always? The moral of this story is: don’t ask to be much sought after….

The Beginning of the Armadillos is a story about a hedgehog and a tortoise. No really….

How the First Letter Was Written brings us into acquaintanceship with the young and opinionated Taffimai Metallumai - a real charmer who almost foments a war.

How the Alphabet Was Made us a follow-up to the previous tale, with the same female main character.

The Crab That Played with the Sea explains why we have tides (it has to do with the living circumstances of a rather crabby character).

The Cat That Walked by Himself is a longest story, and it explains how cats came to be cats, which might be why I found this a bit tedious. Cats are way overrated!

The Butterfly That Stamped is about Sulaimon bin Daoud and his 999 wives. Apparently there's a problem with his domestic circumstances.

I recommend this - especially the audiobook. This and Libba Bray's Beauty Queens are books, I feel, that are actually better heard than read