How did I get it?:
I bought it!
The stories, first published in 1902, are pourquoi (French for “why”) or origin stories, fantastic accounts of how various phenomena came about. A forerunner of these stories is Kipling’s “How Fear Came,” included in his The Second Jungle Book (1895). In it, Mowgli hears the story of how the tiger got his stripes.
The Just So Stories typically have the theme of a particular animal being modified from an original form to its current form by the acts of man, or some magical being. For example, the Whale has a tiny throat because he swallowed a mariner, who tied a raft inside to block the whale from swallowing other men. The Camel has a hump given to him by a djinn as punishment for the camel’s refusing to work (the hump allows the camel to work longer between times of eating). The Leopard’s spots were painted by an Ethiopian (after the Ethiopian painted himself black). The Kangaroo gets its powerful hind legs, long tail, and hopping gait after being chased all day by a dingo, sent by a minor god responding to the Kangaroo’s request to be made different from all other animals.
I had dipped in and out of Just So stories being a primary school teacher. I’ve had to use some of them before. Whilst I can appreciate that they’re charming and classic, there’s something that just doesn’t sit right with me about them. I don’t find them inspiring to teach or to read. I know that’s probably sacrilege, but that’s how I feel and I pride myself on being honest on this blog. Don’t get me wrong, I can totally appreciate that Rudyard Kipling was a talented writer and I do think he deserves his place in literature. It’s just that this collection of stories doesn’t work for me.
I loved that the stories involved animals. That’s always a winning formula for me. I also liked how the stories had a mix of magic, legend and mythical elements. They were fairy tale-esque and that’s something I always appreciate. The stories explain things like how the alphabet was invented to its audience. I assume it’s directed at children. The narrator of the story often speaks to the reader. I sometimes found this a little disjointing, but it was something that I got used to.
The stories are sweet and I can imagine many enjoy them. They just didn’t capture my heart.
For Beth’s wonderful review, check out her blog HERE.
Would I recommend it?:
Next up in the Beth and Chrissi Do Kid-Lit Challenge:
The Worst Witch- Jill Murphy