Thursday, May 28, 2020

Review: Rikki-Tikki-Tavi

Review of Rikki-Tikki-Tavi

        An English family, who have recently moved into a bungalow in India, adopt a waterlogged mongoose. Rikki is very pleased to become a house mongoose, and quickly adapts to his new life. When his new family is threatened by highly venomous snakes, including a family of King Cobras, Rikki heroically leaps to the rescue.

        Rikki-Tikki-Tavi is a short story in The Jungle Book, by Rudyard Kipling. The entire Jungle Book is well worth reading, but this story in particular was a childhood favorite of mine. Rikki is the perfect pet. He is brave, loyal, kind, friendly and generally happy with life. Rikki protects his family, especially his boy, even at risk of death. He stays with his boy until he falls asleep, then is off to patrol the house. Kipling also depicts a number of anthropomorphic garden creatures, including Darzee the tailorbird, who can be rather flighty, but is a very good composer. He has a nice song at the end of the book. Five stars!
                                                                   
John Lockwood Kipling, 1895
                                                                
        The original was illustrated by Kipling’s father, John Lockwood Kipling, and W.H. Drake. These are lovely, detailed sketches, and included in many of the public domain versions. 

W.H. Drake, 1895

        Rikki-Tikki-Tavi has since been re-illustrated again and again, both with the rest of The Jungle Book, and as a standalone children’s book. For a full color version, I recommend the 1997 edition illustrated by Jerry Pinkney in watercolor. His art is gorgeous, with crisp lines and soft colors. Very realistic, too. (A nice collection of Pinkney’s art is currently displayed on digital tour via the Norman Rockwell Museum). 


Monday, May 18, 2020

Review: Darby O'Gill and the Good People

Review of Darby O'Gill and the Good People

        Darby O’Gill and the Good People is a series of Irish stories about Darby’s adventures with the fairy folk of Ireland. After Darby’s cow is stolen by the fairies, he sets out to retrieve her. In the process, he becomes stuck inside the mountain Sleive-na-mon for six months with the fairies. In this time he forms a friendship with the King of the Fairies, Brian Conners. This cements Darby’s reputation of being knowledgeable about supernatural goings on. This is really useful, as Darby encounters different supernatural beings at regular intervals. With all the fairies, the leprechaun, the banshee, and the headless coachman, Darby O’Gill is a very good introduction to Irish lore.

        Herminie Templeton Kavanagh wrote a lot of words phonetically, and includes Irish words here and there. The advantage of this method is a very real Irish accent and speaking style. It’s a very charming, down-to-earth style of story telling that stays true to its cultural roots. While some of the stories are a bit scary, Darby isn’t in mortal danger, and Bridget and the children are always kept safe and provided for, no matter how long it takes Darby to complete his escapade.

        This is the sort of book that will set a room laughing. It’s a down to earth telling of the unearthly. My favorite story is The Banshee’s Comb, in which poor Darby is sent, on “All Sowls' night” (“whin the spirits of the dayparted dead visit once again their homes”), in the rain, to deliver tea to a banshee-visited house. My mom read this to me and my siblings when I was young, and I went back and reread it multiple times. It’s a good book. There are six fairy tales, and they build on each other, but each would make sense if read alone.

Five stars!