Surprisingly, this was my first experience reading anything by Rudyard Kipling–I say surprising because (a) I majored in English and probably should have come across him in four years, but more importantly (b) his writing style reflects everything that I love about language. Kipling is constant character himself in these stories.* I was surprised that this book is actually a collection of short stories which all relate to animal characters in India (I am guilty of basing my initial opinion off of the Disney movie). Kipling is an active narrator in these stories, giving comments on Mowgli’s actions or thoughts, or to mention the bird who relayed the story he is telling of the current animal. In, “Her Majesty’s Servants,” my favorite story in the collection, the Kipling/narrator is relaying a conversation that he directly overheard from the animals used in the army. Anyone who has ever read A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh collection will feel a kindred spirit in the self-aware stories of The Jungle Book.
Kipling’s writing style is also just beautifully lyrical. His language flows with a whimsicalness that often made me think of T.S Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” Reading these stories I felt that Kipling appreciated the sound of language as much as it’s ability to convey a message.
I recognize that this is a children’s book and will not be exactly what everyone is looking for. But, I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a nice summer read that will make you feel like a kid again.
*I should note that I cannot know that the narrator’s voice is supposed to be that of Kipling. I recognize completely that the narrator may be another character that simply uses first person narration. I suggest. however, that the narrator’s voice is, at the very least, based on Kipling’s own voice. The way the narrator expresses his thoughts is consistent with the tones of the stories without any mention of the “I” narrator. I have also started Kipling’s Just-So Stories (stay tuned for that review) which have a similar narrative style.
Review Submitted by: Lauren Grey (SMCM Alumn ’11)
Rating: Highly Recommended