Monday, June 27, 2011

Review #100: Just So Stories

It's our 100th review!  A few weeks ago we asked our readers to recommend books for us to consider for review #100.  The kids and I read as many as we could in the interim, and then we ranked our favorites.  When we tallied the votes, three of the books rose to the top, all within a point or two of each other.  (I think for our next 2 reviews we will feature the two runners-up -- be sure to check back to see what they are!)  But today, the distinction of Bookie Woogie's 100th review belongs to Rudyard Kipling's "Just So Stories"!

Dad:  First of all, congratulations on your 100th review...
Gracie (age 10):  Yea!  "Just So Stories."
Dad:  Why do you think this book came in first place when we voted?
Lily (age 8):  Because it's awesome.
Dad:  We probably wouldn't have read this book without the prompt.  I've owned this book since I was your age, but I had never actually read it.
Gracie:  Why not?
Dad:  Just never got around to it.
Isaac (age 12):  It's awesome.  Everyone should read it.
Lily:  The book is not just one story.  It's a lot of stories.  That's why it's called "Just So Stor-IESSSSSS."  Instead of "Just So Story."  Hee hee.
Dad:  What do all the stories have in common?
Gracie:  They are stories about how things got things.  How animals got their qualities.  Like how the elephant got his trunk and how the leopard got spots.  Things like that.
Dad:  Origin stories.  Like, a Spiderman origin story would tell about how he became Spiderman.  Or a Batman origin story would tell about how he became Batman.  So an elephant origin story will tell about how they got elephant-y.
Gracie:  These remind me of Tales of the Jungle Imps by Winsor McCay.
Dad:  They were published right around the same time.  Just a year apart.
Gracie:  The stories are not really true.  But they are really fun.
Dad:  Did you have a favorite story?
Lily:  I like "The Beginning of the Armadillos."
Dad:  That might have been my favorite too.
Gracie:  Oh, yeah.  That was great.
Lily:  There was a hedgehog and a turtle.  I like the part when they made the jaguar all confused.
Dad:  They engage in some great dialog.
Lily:  The jaguar's mom told him that the hedgehog is the one that curls up, and the tortoise is the one that goes inside of his shell and swims.  But they said to the jaguar, "Are you sure that's what your momma told you?"
Gracie:  Also, they confused him because the tortoise learned how to curl up, and the hedgehog learned how to swim.
Dad:  And as they got more and more like each other, they got more and more armadillo-y
Isaac:  I like the story about the elephant getting his trunk.
Dad:  Why was that one your favorite?
Isaac:  Because he got spanked, and he spanked everybody.
Dad:  So, you love spankings?
Isaac:  Whenever the elephant said anything, all his uncles and aunts spanked him.  Then at the end, the elephant gave all his family spankings back.
Dad:  Isaac, the Spank-lover...
Isaac:  And he also stuck his baboon uncle into a hornet's nest.
Dad:  Would it be fun to make up your own animal origin stories?
Lily:  How a pig learned how to dig with his snout.
Isaac:  Or how a frog learned to use his tongue to catch a fly.
Gracie:  Or how the snake lost his legs.
Dad:  I loved the way Rudyard Kipling writes.  That was my favorite thing about the book.  Beyond the funny stories, I love the language he uses.
Lily:  In every story, he says, "My Best Beloved," "My Best Beloved," "My Best Beloved," over and over and over.
Dad:  He must really love you guys.
Gracie:  And each story has one thing that he says over and over, just in that story.
Lily:  Like, in the leopard one he always says "exclusively," "exclusively," "exclusively."
Gracie:  And in "How the Whale Got His Throat" he keeps saying, "Do not forget about the man's suspenders..."
Lily:  And "He had to," "He had to," in "The Singsong of Old Man Kangaroo."
Dad:  That's called "repetition."  What else did Rudyard Kipling have fun with?  How about: "Stickly-Prickly."
Lily:  Rhyme.
Dad:  And "Slow-and-Solid."
Lily:  Alliteration.
Gracie:  He also likes long lists.
Dad:  Do you remember an example?
Gracie:  Yeah.  In "How the Whale Got his Throat," he says something like, "The man jumped and he bumped, and he smashed and he bashed, and he chopped and he hopped, and he danced and he pranced, and he bit and he knit..."
Dad:  Alright...
Gracie:  "And he kit and he wit..."
Dad:  Alright, good job...
Gracie:  "And he bot and he fought..."
Dad:  Okay, good list...
Gracie:  Yeah, he likes lists.
Isaac:  I like his descriptions.  He doesn't just say, "Here is a tree."  He would say something like, "Here is a swooshy-swashy, fluffy-poofy tree."
Dad:  He has lots of fun with words.
Gracie: (reciting) "He schlooped up a schloop of mud from the bank of the great, gray-green, greasy Limpopo and slapped it on his head to make a schlooopy-sloshy mudcap that was all trickly behind his ears."
Dad:  Man, Gracie, you have an awesome memory!  That's got to be pretty close.  The language is fun, huh?
Gracie:  Yes!  It sticks in my head.
Dad:  You have sticks in your head?
Gracie:  What?
Dad:  Someone named Joanna recommended this book to us.  Are we glad that she did?
Isaac:  Thank-you!
Dad:  What would we have missed out on if we had never read it?
Lily:  Armadillos.
Gracie:  And a lot of "Schlooping."

hedgehog, tortoise, and jaguar, by Lily

elephant getting his trunk, by Gracie

baboon in the hornet's nest, by Isaac

Author: Rudyard Kipling
Published, 1902: Macmillian
Like it?  Here it is


Heidi Noel said...

I read this a long time ago. It is on my shelf and I think I need to reread it. I wrote a Just so story about and armadillo when I was eleven without knowing it was a Just So story. Kipling's is better.

Beth said...

One of the great pleasures of being a parent is reading the Just So stories aloud to your children. O My Best Beloved.

I do remember having to work around some of the archaic stuff (sexist & racist). Did that bother anyone?

Z-Kids said...

Heidi, I need to encourage the kids to develop the origin story ideas they mentioned. I think it would be a lot of fun!

Beth, Thanks for asking... I read the stories as they were, and any issues that might be considered sensitive by today's standards just went over the kids' heads. I didn't call extra attention to them.

The kids continue to have fun with the book... Today my wife found Gracie re-reading it aloud to the younger ones as they acted out the stories with their animal toys :)


Nina Crittenden said...

My Grandfather used to read this book to me. The great, gray-green, greasy Limpopo was always my favorite part! Congrats on Review #100!!!

Joanna said...

You have no idea how happy this post just made me. I'm so glad you all enjoyed it as much as I did! I discovered it in university, and liked it so much that I am still reading it to my friends, whenever I can convince them to hold still long enough. Personally, I loved the story of how the rhinocerous got his skin. I just love the image of the cake-crumbs tickling him!

From your very happy Canadian friend,


John Sandford said...

We had a beat up copy of this, AND we had a vynil phonograph album of the stories as read by Boris Karlov. THAT was great, HE was great. I hope that's around in some form. Maybe I should check my records!
Great #100, good work by all the glorious Zenzes! Hooray, Hoorah, Pip Pip, Huzzah!

John Sandford said...

Or maybe it was vinyl!?

ElizT said...

Or shellac?
This book is an old favourite of mine but our children didn't seem to love it as much; perhaps because they had many [and more modern] books to choose from.