Michael Morpurgo: How Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories became music to my ears

| No Comments

Just So Stories

Michael Morpurgo celebrates and remebers Kipling's Just So Stories:

My copy of Just So Stories, in its brick-red cover with the Elephant's Child straining away with all his might to escape the jaws of the Crocodile on the banks of "the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River", the Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake in close attendance, was the first book I truly loved. My mother was an actress, who had performed in rep all over the country, including a season or two at Stratford. But by the time I was born, my mother had stopped acting to become a full-time mother. So my elder brother Pieter and I were for a while, for that critical time when reading to children in bed is so important, the only audience she had. She just had to open the book and she would become by turns every character inside those pages: she was Rudyard Kipling telling the tale; she was the Camel acquiring his hump, the Rhinoceros getting his skin, the Elephant's Child growing his trunk - by Crocodile means - and she was the Cat that Walked by Himself.

She played the whole orchestra, every instrument from the kettle-drum to the piccolo; she was the conductor and the composer. And because all these stories are "told" as opposed to "written" (although the writing is sublime; it is what makes the stories feel so wonderfully "told") every one of them felt personal, and as if newly invented by my mother each time she told them to us. She made the words (how Kipling loves to play with the sounds and rhythms of words) sing on the air, and she made them laugh too. The poetry of Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear - both also great favourites of my mother for our bedside reading - had the same effect on me. But compared even with them, Kipling was always the master of laughing words.

Leave a comment

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by achuka published on January 7, 2013 7:36 PM.

Guardian Review was the previous entry in this blog.

HarperCollins [US] Children's Books Editorial Director Retires - GalleyCat is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Monthly Archives

OpenID accepted here Learn more about OpenID
Powered by Movable Type 5.2.2