Saturday, May 1, 2010

Book Review: Rikki Tikki Tavi... and I'm a Wimp

I asked Bethany to choose any book she'd like to narrate from for a book review. She chose Rikki Tikki Tavi.  And no, I'm not also reviewing another book called I'm a Wimp.  I am the wimp.  More on that in a bit.

Our children were first introduced to Rikki Tikki Tavi years ago as a storybook on CD, which we checked out from the library. I believe it followed fairly closely to the original storyline from The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling, but it was adapted some.  I was a little hesitant to let them listen to it because the video frightened me when I was a young child and saw it in the theater, but they wanted to hear it, even though I warned them that it might be scary.  They weren't bothered by it at all.  Instead, it quickly became a favorite and they listened to it until they had a lot of it memorized at the time. Here's a link to the one we checked out. If you're wanting to buy one, I have not price-checked this to know whether it's the best deal (and I don't make money off this either by the way -- maybe I should ;) ). [Update 4/29/11: I am now an affiliate, so that last parenthetical statement is no longer accurate, and I thought you should know.]  I simply went there for the picture and link.  It appears there isn't a CD available with it, but you can download the audio for a price, or else buy an extremely overpriced cassette.  I'm pretty sure you could find a free audio of the story in a slightly different version somewhere else online. 

I later read the story aloud to them from the Jungle Book itself, and since then Bethany has reread that to herself more than once.

At first, she said she wanted to narrate the whole thing, but she changed her mind as she got into it and did just the first part.  She likes to give many details and that makes it long (I have no idea where she gets that from, ha).  Here it is, with some grammar imperfections, but she's absorbed many details of the language well:

This story is called Rikki Tikki Tavi, from the Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling. This story is about how a mongoose fought two bad snakes through the bathrooms of a big bungalow in India.

There was this mongoose called Rikki Tikki, who lived with his family in a burrow, and one day a summer flood washed him out of his burrow and sent him rolling down a roadside ditch, 'til when the flood was over he was lying on a path up to a house, and a boy was there saying, "Here's a dead mongoose. Let's have a funeral."

"No," said his mother, "let's take him in and dry him. Perhaps he isn't really dead."
So they took him into the house, where a man picked him up, and they warmed him over the fire, and he opened his eyes and sneezed.

The next morning Rikki Tikki came to breakfast on Teddy's shoulders (for that was the boy's name). And he sat on everybody's shoulders and ate. Then he went out into the garden and said to himself, "This is a perfect hunting ground," and his tail grew brushy at the thought of it.

Suddenly from a thorn bush he heard very mournful calls. It was Darzee, the tailor bird, and his wife.

"What is the matter?" asked Rikki Tikki.

"One of our babies fell out of the nest yesterday, and Nag ate him."

"Mmm," said Rikki Tikki, "That is very sad, but I am a stranger. Who is Nag?"

But Darzee and his wife only dove down into the nest without answering, for from a thicket below the thorn bush came a horrid hiss, a cold and angry sound. Rikki Tikki jumped back a few feet, and Nag came up from a hole in the ground 'til he lifted 3/4 of his body from the ground. "Who is Nag?" he said. "I am Nag." And he spread out his hood.

Then Rikki Tikki said, "Hood or no hood, do you think it is right for you to eat birds?"

Nag lowered his head a little, for he wanted to be sure he watched the slightest bit of movement in the grass, for he knew that mongooses in the garden meant death sooner or later to him and his family. "Let us talk," he said. "You eat eggs. Why shouldn't I eat birds?"

"Look behind you! Look behind you!" said Darzee. Rikki Tikki jumped back two feet, for right behind him whizzed the head of Nagina, Nag's wicked wife. "Ah!' said Nag, lashing up towards the nest as high as he could reach.  But Darzee had built the nest out of snakes' reach. Rikki Tikki felt his eyes grow hot. When a mongoose's eyes turn red, he is angry. But Nag and Nagina had dove down into the grass, and Rikki Tikki went up the path towards the house.

Things to discuss that I recall from Rikki Tikki Tavi (keeping in mind it's been a while since I read it myself):
  • The thought that the markings on the cobra's head were put there by a false god (just mentioned in the story and not dwelt on, as I recall).  I just pointed out that it's not true, mentioned it's a false god, and moved on.
  • Whether it's okay for animals to eat other animals' young, and along the same lines, whether real animals can be wicked (or at least whether eating other animals makes them so).  I just basically mentioned that God allows animals to eat other animals.  I'd dwell on it more only if there were questions from the children.  We've been a little more involved in this discussion at various times both from books and (more) from real-life situations.  I have one child who has been very upset in the past over things such as our cats killing other little neighborhood creatures, and that's prompted some discussions along those lines.  We've even discussed why we eat meat, etc.  I don't think we should shy away from these discussions.  They can be good for all of us and can point us back to God.
  • The way the animals speak to each other is also unkind at times. There's a bit of name-calling, as in Rikki Tikki calling a bird a "stupid tuft of feathers."
  • The male tailorbird in the story is also portrayed as foolish while the female is sensible (which isn't to say the female shouldn't be sensible, by the way).  There is a similar situation with the snakes, and the female snake is dominant.  This could be coincidence but seems to happen a lot in literature in a pointed-seeming way, as on many sitcoms.  In this story the human father and mother are represented better, though, even in the movie version, so that's nice.
  • Also, you still might want to consider that the story could be frightening (to timid children?).  The cobras plot to kill the humans.  Is that not a bit disturbing?  Maybe it's just me, ha.  

Reasons you might find this book worthwhile:
  • It's a fairly short story for the younger ones and holds their interest well while still being classic literature.
  • It teaches some about the animals in a memorable way -- the mongoose and the cobra especially, and a bit about life in India.  Here is a video of a mongoose attacking a cobra
  • It's by Rudyard Kipling.  I think it would be hard to consider yourself educated in the classics without becoming familiar with at least something by Kipling.  Not that being educated in the classics is of utmost importance, but it can be useful, and his works are well-written literature.
  • As I said before, the children enjoyed it immensely.  I also enjoyed revisiting it from an adult perspective.  Some time later, we watched the old movie that I saw as a child which had frightened me in the theater (on YouTube -- here's a link).  That was also fun, and they weren't scared of that either.  Neither was I.  So I'm not as much of a wimp as I used to be, perhaps. :)  I do still dislike scary movies, though.  I have been known to be unable to sleep or have nightmares about something frightening I saw even as an adult (and I'm fairly certain almost anything I ever saw was pretty mild in comparison to what is out there -- I don't know how anyone can take it!).  It hasn't happened for years but that's because I avoid disturbing things like that.  Yep, I'm probably still a wimp.  Yes, I know they aren't real.  It's just that some part of my brain doesn't, apparently.  Fine, laugh it up.  ;) 

Concerning the rest of the Jungle Book by Kipling, I am still working on rereading it myself (sort of -- haven't actually picked it up for a long time) and deciding whether I'll read it aloud or let Bethany read it.  I enjoyed the Mowgli stories as a child, but I'm not sure what I think of them now.  At times I think I get torn because of sentimental attachment, and I wonder how much real value is in things like these.  However, it is quality work from a literary perspective, and as mentioned above, anyone acquainted with classics ought to become at least somewhat familiar with some of Kipling's work.  Well, that's my opinion anyway -- just for writing's sake and because he's so well-known.  So it's more a matter of at what age and how much.  I read aloud some of the Just So Stories with them, but others I skipped (too much evolutionary content for my taste, etc.).  How about you -- what did you decide about Kipling?

This post is part of the Carnival of Homeschooling, hosted this week at MrsMamaHen.



  1. We've read Captains Courageous and (ready for this? chuckle) plan to read 'The Jungle Book' this summer in our Asia unit study. Never read Just So Stories. (So many books, so little time. . .)

    We have also enjoyed RTT--haven't introduced my littles to it yet, but B and D have always liked it.

    We are different in this regard--I enjoy scary movies--psychological thrillers. I have to be careful with what I justify in this genre. :S

  2. Just So Stories is recommended in both the book lists I loosely follow, but I can't bring myself to have Tabitha read it, regardless of who wrote it. I don't mind fantasy--talking animals and such--Beatrix Potter books are some favorites of hers. But books that credit God's creation to accident, or false gods, are another matter. I'm sure that when she's older, I'll probably have her read some of these, just because of their literary importance. Arabian Nights is one of those for way in the future, too. And then there's the issue of magic (Alice in Wonderland, Wizard of Oz). At some point, I need to loosen my grip and let her read some of these classics, but we're not there yet. :)

  3. Ooooh, my son is definitely frugal with his words in comparison to your daughter's narration.

    We love creation science and the Lord but enjoy Rudyard Kipling for literature as well. Maybe it is due to Kipling's jovial style + the foundation we have that God can be taken at His word that make it okay for us. I wouldn't suggest using anything you don't feel comfortable with though.

    For history this term we are studying how God judged the false gods in Exodus through each of the plagues. This has been a great study because my boys love Ancient Egypt and I didn't want them to be to fascinated with the false gods.

    You've given me much to think about with your very interesting post.