by Rudyard Kipling
1997 / 48 pages
This is a lightly adapted, and wonderfully illustrated version of one of Rudyard Kipling's short stories, from The Jungle Book. It is about an orphaned mongoose, Rikki Tikki Tavi, who is adopted by (or does he adopt them?) a family of humans, living in India.
But upon his arrival he finds himself right in the middle of a battle. The family's garden is home to three snakes - two of them cobras! Now, for readers who didn't already know, Kipling informs us "that a mongoose's job is to fight and eat snakes."
So we've got quite the setting here! My daughters all enjoyed the book, but the middle one, all of five years old, had to cling to my arm as I read (I think I may have some bruises). Children's books are generally quite tame, but there is a place for some tension. Reading a storybook with wicked villains and big battles is a controlled means to teach children that yes, bad guys do exist, and evil is out there, and someone needs to fight it. Now this Kipling story doesn't mention God, but as parent we can connect the dots for our children: we can tell them that like Rikki Tikki Tavi, we are called to battle.
I'll add, I didn't use this one as a bedtime story. There is a time for tension, and right before bed isn't it.
You can find a original version of Kipling's story here, and while Jerry Pinkney does a good job of adapting the text – his light hand alters no more than 10%, keeping Kipling's rhythms intact - the reason you'd want to get this version is because of the pictures. They are gorgeous! My daughters had no idea what a mongoose looked like, and haven't seen cobras all that often, so the pictures filled in the gaps they wouldn't have otherwise been able to imagine.
You can pick up a copy at Amazon.com here, or at Amazon.ca here.