Monday, 16 April 2012

Books: Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book Stories


Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book Stories
Written by Rudyard Kipling and P. Craig Russell
Art by P. Craig Russell

Available now from Islington Libraries
You can reserve this item for free here:

Look for... the bare necessities. The simple bare necessities. Forget about your worries and your strife! I mean the bare necessities - Old Mother Nature's recipes -  that brings the bare necessities of life. Wherever I wander, wherever I roam, I couldn't be fonder of my big home: The bees are buzzin' in the tree to make some honey just for me - when you look under the rocks and plants and take a glance at the fancy ants (Then maybe try a few!) The bare necessities of life will come to you (They'll come to you!) Look for the bare necessities - the simple bare necessities - forget about your worries and your strife! I mean the bare necessities - that's why a bear can rest at ease -with just the bare necessities of life. Now when you pick a pawpaw - or a prickly pear - and you prick a raw paw: next time beware! Don't pick the prickly pear by the paw - when you pick a pear - try to use the claw - but you don't need to use the claw when you pick a pear of the big pawpaw. Have I given you a clue ? The bare necessities of life will come to you. (They'll come to you!) So just try and relax, yeah cool it - fall apart in my backyard 'cause let me tell you something little britches: if you act like that bee acts, uh uh you're working too hard: and don't spend your time lookin' around for something you want that can't be found: when you find out you can live without it and go along not thinkin' about it I'll tell you something true: The bare necessities of life will come to you.

Ok. So. Now we're got that out of the way - know this - this book is nothing like Disney's Jungle Book. Ok? Ok.

For those of you that didn't know - this may come something as a shock - but before it was a popular children's cartoon The Jungle Book was a slightly forbidding seeming book (at least to my eyes) written by the heavy-weight British imperialist Rudyard Kipling (basically the grandfather of Britpop). A loose collection of moral folk tales which lay on the life lessons with a heavy and stern hand in that way the Victorians seem to dig so very much The Jungle Book features names you'll probably recognize like Baloo, Kaa and - obviously - Mowgli the boy cub.

P. Craig Russell - a comic book legend who began way back in 1972 - is most recently best known (at least to me) for his Neil Gaiman adaptations Sandman: The Dream Hunters and Coraline - is the man responsible for this lavish and magnificent interpretation of these three stories from The Jungle Book (altho if you want to be clever about it - they're actually from The Second Jungle Book a sequel first published in 1895 - so yeah). No - it doesn't matter if you haven't read the book or seen the film because all the necessary information is included - and really The Jungle Book isn't really about a long over-arching narrative - but rather more a succession of small stories that can each be enjoyed individually - like apples picked from a tree.

For me - it was nice to experience Kipling's language at first-hand and get a sense of how - yeah - dude could really write (and compared to popular modern authors - sorry guys and girls - it's funny how much more weighty people back in the day could make their words seem - maybe there was a problem with Earth's gravity or something?) and it's nice to luxuriate in it's solemn tones. But - hell - the man draw is P. Craig Russell's classical seeming artwork which manages to feel somehow stately and grand - yet is still spry enough to capture fleeting moments like the shape of the tips of a foot as it breaks out of the water - disturbing the reflection of the moon: a panel so nice that I was tempted to cut it out and stick it on my wall (not that I would - because - hey - it's a library book).

At points I've often complained that the art in American comics (and let's face it - it is mostly the American comic) seems sloppy and rushed and half-done. Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book Stories is a really good example to hold up in order to say: yes. This is how it's done. Here's how to tell a story and make things look real real nice at the same time.

Further reading: The Sandman: The Dream HuntersBuddhaCoraline, Don Quixote, City of GlassThe Hobbit.

All comments welcome.

No comments: