172 of 178 people found the following review helpful
on November 6, 2000
Kipling's JUST SO STORIES certainly rank in English-speaking children's literature right along with A. A. Milne's WINNIE THE POOH and Kenneth Grahame's WIND IN THE WILLOWS. They are fun to read to children 4-8, and even MORE fun for them to read for themselves at ages 7-11 (they're marvelous vocabulary builders --"the mariner of infinite resource and sagacity" <grin>). My English-raised mother heard the stories when they were new and read them to me when I was a child, I read them to my own children, they read them to theirs, and I believe that same cycle has been repeated among millions of families since the stories appeared at the beginning of the 20th century.
It is my impression that today the JUST SO STORIES do not enjoy the popularity with children (and parents) that they once had. That may be because they are occasionally "politically incorrect" in their depiction of historical attitudes regarding race and culture. Joel Chandler Harris's UNCLE REMUS stories and even Mark Twain's HUCKLEBERRY FINN are sometimes removed from local library shelves on the same basis. In this reviewer's view, inattention to the works of Kipling and Harris and Twain deprives English-speaking children of some appreciation of the culture and civilization in which they live today. Worse yet, it deprives them of the fun of reading FOR fun.
Rudyard Kipling, referred to by one reviewer here as "not a very good writer" was the first English writer to win the Nobel Prize (not the Pulitzer) for literature, in 1907. He was staunchly pro-Empire in an era in which Great Britain not only ruled the waves, but a third of the globe -- the sun never set, it was said, on the British Empire, of which he sang in hundreds of poems and short stories and novels which also deserve reading today.
But imperial/colonialist notes are hard to hear in the JUST SO STORIES, which Kipling wrote for the amusement of a young niece. The stories are meant for FUN, and all children deserve to have some. Get this book; read it yourself if you haven't already -- and then read it to the youngsters for whom Kipling intended it.
71 of 74 people found the following review helpful
on July 8, 2004
I recently purchased this set on cd with a gift certificate for my young daughter. The price tag may have put me off at any other time, but since I was getting it with a certificate, I went for it. I read these stories cover to cover repeatedly as a little girl and took great delight in the hilarity of the answers to such questions as "how did the leopard get his spots?" or "how did the camel get his hump?" Kipling's stories are marvelously nonsensical - which makes them fit for a child's world. However, it was not until hearing them read aloud on this very set that I realized his rhyme and use of repetitive words or phrases is very similar to our modern master of children's literature: Dr. Seuss. It would not surprise me to find that Seuss took his inspiration from the works of Kipling. This is not striking to a reader, but as you listen to his words brought to life by the human voice it is hard to miss.
Geoffrey Palmer, of As Time Goes By, is one of my favorite actors. His voice and interpretation of these beautiful stories enhances the experience so much that I was laughing out loud listening to him in my car. His dry sense of humor is felt in his characterizations of the cast and the lulling of his voice lends a calming, gentle, and sophisticated quality to the text. I now can simply not imagine these stories being read by anybody else.
Finally, the classical musical selection is superb and adds an intelligent whimsiness to the piece. I would highly recommend this set as a lovely gift for any child you find "tenacious and full of segacity". What a delightful alternative to the screech of today's cartoons and children's "pop" albums full of Britney Spears remakes.
50 of 54 people found the following review helpful
on September 25, 2001
Kipling�s classic volume of stories concerns the great questions of history; How the Whale got his Throat, How the Camel got his Hump, How the Alphabet was Made and many other thorny dilemmas. The language is sophisticated yet often whimsical and children love to hear the words read aloud. It is tempting to scan ahead and change things, substitute more contemporary phrases for the old but, if you can, resist the urge. Kipling was a master of the language. His writing is balanced and fluid and while it may seem dated when taken piece by piece, its sum is far greater than its parts. Read The Cat that Walked by Himself and you will never look at your own pet in quite the same way again.
28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on March 20, 2010
Being a free Kindle edition, I was expecting that the drawings and their attached descriptions would be missing. What I was not expecting was for the little poems often found in the stories to also be missing. Things like the Sloka the Parsee sings after the Rhinoceros eats his cake, that are usually block-quoted and italicized in published versions, are not included. The stories can certainly be followed without them, but as the text that IS there specifically says a little poem or song is going to be related to the reader, the gaps are quite obvious.
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on December 31, 2009
I had a hard time finding the original. I read the reviews of various editions closely and learned that many "Just So Stories" are not unabridged as this one is. I highly recommend this edition. The book is large and I cannot see why anyone would want to read anything but pure Kipling. My six year-old is getting a real kick out of this book. We read a few stories per week. Reading something written 100 years ago is good for us!
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on October 18, 2010
This version does not contain the images or poems in the original -- one of the ones at Gutenberg does. Since some of the fun of this book is in the convoluted captions of the original drawings, I'd recommend getting that one instead.
28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
Let me make it clear that I am reviewing the Signet Classics version of Just So Stories. The reason I say that is because the original versions of these stories contain material that would be offensive to most people today, but the worst of that has been removed from this edition. The other advantage of this version is that it contains Kipling's own illustrations and his captions for those illustrations. Finally, this version is also very inexpensive.
These stories were told to Kipling in their original form when he was a child by his Indian nursemaids. They are drawn from many non-Western sources, and provide good contrasts with European fairy tales. In most cases, the stories are about animals or early human beings and their development into their modern form or capabilities. But they are really satires on human weaknesses, with the moral showing how overcoming a weakness will usually create a strength.
Here are the stories and their morals:
How the Whale Got His Throat -- If you get too greedy, you will bite off more than you can chew. By taking on less at a time, you can absorb more in total.
How the Camel Got His Hump -- If you are lazy and procrastinate, you will just have to do without in the future and be less attractive in order to make up for it. Having resources for times of scarcity is always helpful.
How the Rhinoceros Got His Skin -- Being too aggressive will cause you to experience retribution from those you harm. With more flexibility, you can be more agile.
How the Leopard Got His Spots -- You have a better chance of success if you blend in, rather than trying to stand out individually too much.
The Elephant's Child -- If you are too nosy, you can get into mischief. Having a keen nose can help you sniff out and execute more opportunities.
The Sing-Song of Old Man Kangaroo -- Be careful what you wish for, you may get it. Being boundless gives you the chance to explore more.
The Beginning of the Armadillo -- Versatility is more valuable than knowing just one way to handle a situation.
How the First Letter Was Written -- Miscommunication is easier to accomplish than correct communication. Double-check to be sure the message is understood.
How the Alphabet Was Made -- Choose combinations of communication that are unambiguous, or you will find yourself confusing everyone. This story is a brilliant essay on how one might go about inventing written language.
The Crab that Played with the Sea -- Consider the consequences of your actions before you act, or you may see the actions rebound against you.
The Cat that Walked by Himself -- The benefits of helping others greatly improve one's own life.
The Butterfly that Stamped -- Actions taken for the right reason have just consequences while actions taken for pride tend to boomerang against us.
Each story contains a prose tale, followed by a brief poem. The illustrations are explained in the caption at the end.
The style of the stories includes lots of funny repetition, especially in the names of rivers and the features of the animals being described. With each repetition, your smile will broaden until you cannot suppress a good laugh.
The stories also use the term "best beloved" a lot. What a delightful way to refer to the child to whom you are reading these stories! That would be reason enough to introduce these stories to your children. The phrase "just so" is used less often, but has a nice cadence as well, like a carpenter planing down a piece of wood to fit perfectly into an item being constructed.
Since these "pretend" stories obviously are counter to the latest scientific knowledge, you will probably want to introduce the relevant science to your child, too, at some point. Then you can ask your child why she or he thinks that Kipling made up these stories. This will give you a chance to talk about the implications for people. Be sure to give your child an opportunity to develop his or her own interpretations. Those will be much more useful and memorable than any that you could provide. Try to use questions to lead your little learner forward.
See the opportunities that the proper balance provides!
27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on May 1, 2001
Considered aloof and even irascible by reporters and adoring fans, Rudyard Kipling was admittedly a private person. Despite his reputation as a recluse during his four-year Vermont sojourn, he was genuinely fond of children. With paternal tenderness and pride he wrote this anthology of 12 unrelated tales for the amusement and enlightenment of his oldest, American-born daughter. A hint of their sacred relationship is revealed in "How the First Letter was Written" and "How the Alphabet was Made," wherein readers savor the loving bonds between cavegirl, Taffy, and her devoted father, Tegumi.
Many serious critics refuse to consider this collection of animal fables--which satirize human vices and foibles--as true literature, unworthy of adult time or mental effort to be appreciated. Nevertheless, it takes a different arsenal of literary skills to write well for children, who demand more action and clever dialogue; they expect to be hooked right away into whatever plot. It takes an agile mind plus a youthful heart to hold kids' attention over thousands of words and several pages--even with illustrations by the multi-talented author. (Seek those editions which offer the additional lure of Kipling's own pen and ink sketches.)
Don't be swayed by any rhetoric you may have heard about Kipling's so-called Politics, either. His social opinions frequently are blown out of proportion or taken out of context. In any case they are irrelevant to the intent of his anthology. Other than a few socially-incorrect phrases, JUST SO STORIES proves an excellent chapter-by-chapter bedtime book, especially for parents under fire to answer the inevitable questions which explain why a particular animal looks or acts the way it does. The author has bravely tackled that problem--taking adults off the inevitable Why hook. Using his palette of unlimited vocabulary, Kipling creates his own imaginative, drole and delightful expressions. Even if as adults we find his linguistic patchwork difficult to understand at times, most children will enter the word game eagerly. JUST SO STORIES offers a cute read for all YAHOOS--those who are truly Young At Heart or Otherwise!
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on June 5, 2001
This book is the most valued in my family history. Now my children are asking after it to read to their children because of all of the beloved memories it brings back. The language is a delight. The way Kipling draws the reader and listener in to feel they are part of the story, it is story telling magic at its very best. I can't believe anyone who has this book in their home, once read, will ever be without it. As long as children and that child in all adults long for the gifted story teller's magic, this book is special.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on March 10, 2004
If you enjoy language and good story-telling this book belongs on your bookshelf. I've been reading the stories to my seven-year-old daughter who eats them up. Yes, the vocabulary is challenging - it isn't Berenstain Bears! But there is a time for "I Can Read" books and a time for "Read to Me" books. This will challenge kids and their imaginations, especially if they love animals like my kids do. And it's not just for kids - I love the stories too! Buy it!