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Monday, January 6, 2014


An absolute treat – not just for youngsters but for anyone who is young at heart. Worth every cent! (Review by Caroline Smart)

Alex Latimer breathes new life into Rudyard Kipling’s classic Just So Stories in this new hardcover publication produced by Penguin Books.

The front cover features many of the characters in the stories presented as if for a theatrical curtain call. Latimer’s characters are all long-legged, even Slow-Solid Tortoise and Pau amma are standing upright. The Whale towers above the others while Crocodile smirks triumphantly as he perches on Whale’s Head.

There are major “bravos” here: for Rudyard Kipling for creating his glorious Just So Stories and their accompanying verses, in the first place, and for Alex Latimer for giving them new life through his delightful illustrations.

Some of the stories include how the Armadillo got its name when Stickly Prickly Hedgehog and Slow-Solid Tortoise exchanged exteriors to avoid being eaten by young Jaguar. We get to meet young Taffimai (Taffy) and enjoy her involvement in the creation of handwriting and the alphabet.

Then there’s How the Camel got its Hump as well as stories that explain why the Rhino is such a grumpy animal and The Crab that Played with the Sea in which Kipling presents his idea of how the tides were created.

While many are familiar with Kipling’s classic phrase about the “great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River all set about with fever trees“, he is also well-known for his inimitable descriptive style of writing. These intriguing and whimsical stories about how animals look like they do form a major challenge for those who read them aloud as they need to get their tongues around complicated words or sets of words. There’s a voice exercise challenge on every page!

Here are a few examples: “The really truly twirly-whirly eel” ... “a great forest ‘sclusively full of trees and bushes and stripy, speckly, patchy-blatchy shadows” ... “a new cool, sluishy-squishy mud-cap” ... “the Leopard he was the ‘sclusivest sandiest-yellowest-brownest of them all – a greyish-yellowish catty-shaped kind of beast” ... “the Bi-Coloured Python-Rock-Snake with the scalesome, flailsome tail“ ... and so the delicious descriptions continue.

Throughout the Just So Stories, Kipling uses the term “Best Beloved” and it is believed that this refers to his beloved eldest daughter, Josephine, who died at an early age from pneumonia.

Just So Stories is published by Penguin Books and is an absolute treat –not just for youngsters but for anyone who is young at heart. ISBN: 9780143530992 Recommended Price R120. It’s worth every cent! – Caroline Smart