Goodreads: The Jungle Book
What little I know of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book comes from having watching Disney’s animated version exactly once, several years ago. So, I knew basically nothing going into this besides there being something about a young human boy being raised by jungle animals. Imagine my surprise upon discovering the book contains seven stories, and only the first three are about Mowgli. I do think, however, these three stories are the strongest.
Mowgli’s stories are, interestingly, not told in chronological order; they start with the story of how Mowgli leaves the forest, then circle back to tell one adventure he had while living in the jungle and one story of how he eventually returned to the jungle. The biggest themes seem to be about power and “the law of the jungle,” which is powerful but apparently not as binding as many would like. I enjoyed reading about the adventures Mowgli, his wolf family, and his other friends had, as well as how the laws of the jungle were sometimes helpful and at other times ignored. I have not yet fully decided whether Kipling’s depiction of certain animal societies is supposed to be commentary on something broader, however (such as the depiction of the monkeys as a species completely ignored by the other jungle animals because there is no clear monkey society or law).
The other stories in the book were more hit or miss for me. The first story to break away from Mowgli is simply about a seal who wants to find his seal friends/family an island uninhabited by men so they can hang out without fear of being hunted. It’s pretty straightforward, and I didn’t find it all that interesting. Another story is basically about army mules/horses/elephants/etc. debating who has the coolest, most important, most courageous job. I think readers, especially younger ones, who happen to like animal stories will enjoy some of these offerings. (Humans feature in some of the stories but are generally not the point, and I’m certainly not an expert on whether Kipling is portraying the societies with accuracy.) Personally, I found the stories amusing enough while I was in the process of reading them, but I’m not sure I would go out of my way to revisit them.
The Jungle Book was worth a one-time read for me since it is a classic piece of literature, and it does have some of the unique charm of older children’s stories, if you’re into that particular style. However, since I’m not really an animal story person, I don’t think it spoke to me the way it may speak to some other readers.
Note: I read the MinaLima edition of the book, which is beautifully designed and definitely worth picking up if you like adding pretty books to your collection. I think the claim of “interactive elements” is a bit overblown because this generally means you might be able to spin an illustration or unfold a map, but they do add some fun to the book.