Into the Jungle: Stories for Mowgli is a beautiful and sumptuous collection of new stories by Katherine Rundell, set in Rudyard Kipling’s familiar jungle but infused with more heart and wit.
Mowgli believes he is in trouble and so is avoiding Mother Wolf; he spends the day plunging through the jungle collecting stories from and about his extended jungle family. He learns that his mother, Raksha, has always been willing to risk her life to protect those she loves. He is told of Bagheera’s bravery and loss, of how Baloo came to speak all the languages of the jungle, and he is surprised to learn that Kaa the python once cared for someone other than himself.
These tales all enrich the original Jungle Book characters and provide a depth and authenticity to their stories. In particular, it is satisfying to have the character of Mother Wolf fleshed out into Raksha, a fearless wolf who fiercely loves and protects her family. New female characters are introduced, which serves to counterbalance the abundance of male voices in the original stories but also provides warmth and depth to the relationships between the characters. The narrative voice is reminiscent of Kipling’s sharp, to-the-point tone but is less archaic and somewhat lighter, making the book perfect to read aloud.
Kristjana S. Williams’ striking and unusual illustrations in rich jewel-tones are a perfect complement to the stories. Williams combines highly detailed antique engravings of animals with her pen-and-ink drawings to form a mixed media collage, which is then coloured to create a fascinating and engaging illustration of events in the text.
Into the Jungle: Stories for Mowgli would work well as a read-aloud with classes from age seven up, or could be used in guided reading sessions. It would also be great as part of a book study of the Jungle Book, offering opportunities to develop critical literacy, particularly surrounding the difference in representations of female characters and the contrasting contexts.
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