Friday 26 May 2017

Reviewing the Classics #9 Just So Stories

Goodreads Summary:

Originally told by Rudyard Kipling to his children at bedtime, this compendium of witty tales imagines how animals came to be as they are now. Discover how the massive whale got a tiny throat by swallowing a mariner, how the lazy camel got a hump so that he had no excuse not to work, and why the leopard's spots were painted on.

Kipling's imagination runs wild as he creates charming origin stories that still enchant and delight children to this day. This edition features Kipling's iconic original illustrations

So firstly I'm going to apologise for abandoning my reviewing the classics posts! As I didn't get round to posting one last month, my plan is to post one every month until I'm eventually caught up. This month I decided to go with a children's classic, Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling. I remember loving these stories as a child, and as Alma sent me such a gorgeous copy, I thought it was the perfect opportunity for a reread.

Just So Stories are a collection of twelve short stories with a reocurring theme of how an animal got it's distinguishing feature or personality. Each story gives a fictional and creative explanation for each animal, from how the elephant got it's trunk to explaining how the armadillo came into existance. I loved that every story was short enough to read in a few minutes, making them perfect for bedtime stories. I found myself reading a few of them out loud, as they were told in a way that made them perfect for this. I also thought the repetition of certain phrases would be particularly effective in grabbing the attention of the listener.

Although some of the stories are still relevant today, a few things were dated, and unacceptable in the modern world. One thing I had a problem with came up in The Elephant's Child. Children are naturally curious, and learn by asking questions. I felt as if the Elephant's Child being spanked every time he asked a question was a bad message to send out to children. Another problem was that Kipling's political views came into the stories a few times. Although we shouldn't just forgive Kipling for his controversial political views, he lived during a time when his opinions were more accpted than they are today. Racist language is used a couple of times, particularly in How the leopard got his spots. I feel as if we shouldn't stop children from reading and enjoying classics because of issues like this, but we also need to explain how times have changed. I think Alma did the right thing in their edition by no censoring the book, but giving an explanation as to why this racist language is unacceptable.

I found the way female characters were portrayed as being an issue for young children. We already live in a world where men and women are unequal, with all of the female characters being submissive to their husbands, and occasionally even seeming to be afraid of them. Even though The Butterfly that Stamped was meant to be a light hearted joke, it also showed how the male butterfly had power over his wife, and the events were swung in his favour. Although I doubt young children would pick up on this, I felt as if children old enough to read for themselves possibly could.

Even though I don't condone Kipling himself, I do think he was a talented author. These stories reminded me of Aesops' fables, and I think they are perfect for parents to read to their children at bed time, providing the parent takes sensible precautions in how they wish to proceed with the racist words. All of these stories take around ten minutes to read at the most, so they are perfect for young children who have a short attention span.

Just So Stories is now available to purchase!

 Alma Classics  | Amazon Book Depository 

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