Sunday, June 1, 2008

Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling

I recommend this book for: age 4 and up

One of my favorite books from childhood, Just So Stories is a collection of tales that explain why things are the way they are - how the camel got his hump, how the alphabet was invented, where the elephant got such a long nose, and more. Children will meet a mariner with suspenders (which are very important - take care not to forget the suspenders!), a very naughty Elephant's Child, a Camel who says "humph" so much that he earns one of his very own, and a Cat who walks by himself. What makes these tales really special is Kipling's diction - the stories got their name from his daughter's insistence that he tell them over and over just so, with not a word left out . . . and what words he uses! Some of my favorite phrases include "the great gray-green greasy Limpopo River" and a very wise, very verbose "Bi-Colored Python Rock Snake." Many of the words might be challenging or require explanation, but these tales are meant to be read aloud, and even young children need to hear wordplay like this and will enjoy the funny sounds of the words. The strange word choices form oddly lyrical prose, and my guess is that there is more than one child who will beg to hear them over and over - as I did.

Reviews, Best Beloved - have you forgotten the suspenders?

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