Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Just So.

Some time last summer, Kate ran across some of Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories on totlol.com. (Edit: It's gone to a pay site, but they're on youtube too) Such as "How the Whale got his Throat" and "The Elephant's Child." She seemed to especially enjoy the one about the whale, and watched it over and over. They're fairly good adaptations, though they do change things a bit.

One night at bedtime, Kate asked me, "Can you tell me the story of how the whale got his throat?" (At the time she was pronouncing it more like "fwout.")

I said, "I can do better than that, I'll read it to you!"

I got this bookwhen I was at BYU. Dr. Tunnel, my children's lit professor, had a copy that he showed us in class, and I fell in love with the illustrations--gorgeous paintings with intricate patterned frames and gold accents.

The stories are rather wordy, and the book doesn't have pictures on every page, but Kate enjoys listening. I have, at times, read to her from whatever book I'm in the middle of while she falls asleep. This is after the regular bedtime stories and books, of course. The current bedtime routine includes stories and books with Dad ("stories" usually means acting things out with her stuffed animals), then teeth brushing and family prayer, then three more books with Mom. I went through a brief Three Investigators revival a while back (must have been something with the pregnancy hormones), and I read to her from those. She'd ask questions every once in a while--enough to show that she was paying attention at least a bit--but even with that she'd usually fall asleep pretty quickly.

We've been reading a Just So story almost every night for quite a while now. She hardly ever falls asleep (except sometimes when we do one of the longer ones). They're just fun to listen to, with the rhythm and repetition ("the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River, all set about with fever trees").

They're meant to be read aloud. It's not just about the stories, it's about the words. Which I can understand might not appeal to everyone. There's an introduction in the front of the book that includes an excerpt from a spoof "Very-Nearly Story" published in the humorous magazine Punch, which tells "how the Ruddikip got His Great Big Side!" The Ruddikip announces:

"I will now turn to the Small Children, and I shall address them in decapitated polysyllables."

Wherefore and 'cordingly, oh, Best-Beloved, the most and-altogether-beyond-record-'defatigable Ruddikip took his little pen, and he wrote. Then they took the writing of the 'defatigable Ruddikip, and put it in beautiful, big black print. For they knew, oh, Approximately Invaluable, that this is the kind of talk you like, and that you would thank the Ruddikip ever so much for tales written in just this way!

"Chuck it!" said the Modern Child as he rose and fled.

Ha. For the time being, anyway, we're both enjoying them. We have the Whale, the Camel, and the Rhinoceros in regular rotation, being the shortest stories. "The Beginning of Armadillos" is very cute, but quite a bit longer.

It's so fun to see Kate synthesizing and using things that she's heard. The other day she was playing with her Hungry Hungry Hippo game, and I heard her say, "And he swallowed the 'Stute Marble down into his warm, dark, inside cupboards!"


Lorri said...

highlighted you as the Quote of the Day on my blog!

Heather T. said...

Oh Helena, that made me laugh out loud! I've never heard of this guy, so I shall definitely have to look him up. And speaking of decapitated words, yesterday Allen -- wondering if the richest man in the world might not have so many constraints if he wanted to buy a $90.00 lego train -- said, well, he wouldn't have any staints! Ok, maybe one staint, but that's it! *lol*

Helena said...


Rudyard Kipling wrote The Jungle Book (which I've never actually read... maybe I'll give it a try).

Lara said...

I want to get that book! Sounds wonderful!

Kathey said...

I love it!!!

Barbie said...

I think that was the first book I fell asleep reading because I just couldn't put it down.

Amy Sorensen said...

Kaleb is ALMOST at the stage where he can listen to me reading. I mean, I read him books of course, but reading like this, without many pictures. I'm glad you reminded me of this book because I think he will love it! Anything that makes them see language in an out-of-the-box sort of way is great, I think!

Peter Ahlstrom said...

Ha ha ha! Love the hippos marble quote.