This post series will explore a few great books that are just begging to be read out loud to kids, yours or not. Or, read them out loud to your friends, or your spouse, or to yourself. (I read books to my cat, Roland, though I’m not sure how much he understands.) Make sketches or paintings of your favorites. Get your kids, or whatever kids you’ve borrowed for the purpose, to draw, paint, act out, or otherwise illustrate their favorite scenes. If you just sit down and read these books the way one might read the 1550pg epic novel I am currently slogging through, you might certainly enjoy these fun funs more than I am enjoying my epic read, but you’ll be getting just a small portion of the beauty and richness of these tales.
Just So Stories, by Rudyard Kipling
The first of these 12-13 animal tales begins
IN the sea, once upon a time, O my Best Beloved, there was a
Whale, and he ate fishes. He ate the starfish and the garfish, and the crab and the dab, and the plaice and the dace, and the skate and his mate, and the mackereel and the pickereel, and the really truly twirly-whirly eel. All the fishes he could find in all the sea he ate with his mouth—so! Till at last there was only one small fish left in all the sea, and he was a small ‘Stute Fish, and he swam a little behind the Whale’s right ear, so as to be out of harm’s way. Then the Whale stood up on his tail and said, ‘I’m hungry.’ And the small ‘Stute Fish said in a small ‘stute voice, ‘Noble and generous Cetacean, have you ever tasted Man?’
Kipling traveled a lot and his stories reflect the places he knew and the traditional stories he picked up along the way. He is criticized by some people who say that his stories are a form of colonialization, appropriating another culture’s stories, but I see stories as inherently shared, organic things that can travel between cultures and that can be told in Kipling’s voice in his book without harming the ability of other storytellers to tell these stories in their own voices as well. Stories are one of the best non-violent ways we have to discover and understand other cultures and explore new worlds. They die if they are shut up and hoarded untold.
There are many different printings of Just So Stories. The British original collection only had 12 stories, but since 1903 the American edition has had 13 stories. There is a free ebook version of this book available on Project Gutenberg that contains just the original 12 stories, but I am sure there are other ways to obtain free and cheap copies of this book in its 13-story form as well. And, if reading this book to someone else doesn’t appeal to you and you’d rather be read to, you can download a free audiobook of Just So Stories off freeclassicaudiobooks.com.