Yet another children’s book! Admittedly, the Jungle Book is in a pretty separate category from most of the YA I’ve read this year, but it makes up for it with that complicated racial and colonial history. Let’s talk about native kids portrayed as animals!
The Book: the Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
Genre: YA, fantasy, colonial imperialism…?
First impressions: Honestly, this book is pretty meh. Like. The particular volume I read opened with the Mowgli stories, which are problematic on about a million levels with their sheer misunderstanding of how fauna interact with each other and also the depiction of Mowgli himself, and also of the humans who rejected, then accepted, then rejected him again. But at its heart, this book just…eh, it isn’t much of anything. It’s a weird anthropomorphic fantasy children’s book. It doesn’t really stand the test of time (most of the stories either read as eyebrow-raising or just plain boring). I had a hard time paying attention to anything in it. It just doesn’t intrigue.
The non-Mowgli stories were a little less meh-inducing, but still pretty dull. Riki-Tiki-Tavi was easily the best one, and that’s mostly just because mongooses are awesome and it’s basically a colonialism-style Redwall. Of course, he won’t be in the movie (except maybe as a short film? I would watch the hell out of a Pixar-style Riki-Tiki-Tavi short film). Maybe these books would be good if you read them as a child? I just wasn’t that impressed, is what it comes down to.
Will it adapt?: It might, if you did a lot of tweaking and re-writing and arranging so that a lot of the more problematic racial constructs are less overt. Honestly, though, I’m not sure why you’d bother adapting this one, even if it is primarily to hold your copyright on the beloved older adaptation. Especially in live action, it’s just going to be weird. Talking animals never go over well in live-action films.
Should I read it?: I wouldn’t. It’s pretty dull. But then, I’m an adult. Maybe your kids would like it?
This post is part of my I Read It First series.