I've never read Kipling's The Jungle Book before, and it's been ages since I've watched the Disney movie. I also didn't own a copy (suprisingly - I tend to buy classics at used book sales and then rarely get around to reading them). So my Book Club experience this month had to start with tracking down a copy. Thankfully, our local library had one, although I'm guessing that no one has checked it out in a very long time. No fancy picture on the cover, no dust jacket. It was just a plain brown hardcover. And since the only copyright date was 1894, I'm pretty certain it's a first edition or very close to it. This meant that in addition to reading the book, I spent a fair amount of time sniffing it. Old books smell wonderful.
I enjoyed every one of the short stories (and the poems! That was a pleasant surprise.) in The Jungle Book, although I was surprised that some of them didn't take place in the jungle (like the story about the white seal). My favorite was the last story, though, titled "Her Majesty's Servants." In this story, we get a peek at what all the animals in an army camp think and feel, as well as their unique class system. I enjoyed the way they were trying to one-up each other in bravery. The ridiculous camels that took fright and crashed their way through the tents were very amusing. It certainly takes some creativity on Kipling's part to imagine the point of view that each of these animals would have.
The Mowgli stories were interesting, but a little hard to understand. I think having more background knowledge about these animals and life in the jungle would have been helpful. I felt like I was missing out on some of the subtle things that Kipling included because I just didn't know enough. Are there any annotated versions of The Jungle Book out there, a mix of fiction and nonfiction? What an interesting way to learn about the jungle and jungle animals!
There was one story I had read before, and that was "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi." I taught seventh grade Literature for one year, and this was in their textbook. It was fun to reread it with the echoes of the seventh grade reactions in my ears. I must say, though, that their favorite part was the YouTube videos of mongooses (mongeese?) and cobras. Turns out they really are enemies in the animal kingdom - more evidence of all the nonfiction that these stories are based on. Just for fun, I've included one of these videos below. It happens just like Kipling describes!