Manga Classics: The Jungle Book
Written By: Rudyard Kipling
Story Adaptation By: Crystal S. Chan
Art By: Julien Choy
Published By: Manga Classics, Inc.
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
Believe it or not, I never did have an opportunity to read The Jungle Book as a child. I have vague memories of scenes from Disneyís adaptation of the Rudyard Kipling book, but I never did get around to reading the classic. Iíve been preaching that Manga Classicsí adaptations of classic novels is a great way to introduce younger generations to older classics, so why not take my advice and check out Manga Classics: The Jungle Book.
For those who donít know, The Jungle Book is actually a collection of stories originally published as short stories for magazines in the late 1800s. Three of these center around Mowgli, a child stolen from his village by the lame tiger, Shere Khan. Rescued by a wolf pack, the child is taught the ways of the jungle by his pack and by a bear named Baloo and a black panther named Bagheera. They teach him to hunt, how to speak to other jungle creatures, and what creatures to avoid, but Shere Khan is always waiting in the background, having sworn he will someday taste Mowgliís flesh.
Through Shere Khanís treachery, the leaders of the wolf pack are ousted and Mowgli is kicked out of the pack. He must now live among men, but although he finds acceptance among some of the people in the local village, Mowgli does not feel at home with other humans. There are some who are jealous of his position in the village and others who do not like the way he treats everyone, despite their caste, as equals.
When Mowgli comes upon an opportunity to destroy Shere Khan and save the village that has adopted him, the local hunter tries to claim the kill as his own. Unable to wrest the tigerís pelt from Mowgli, he spreads lies about Mowgli to the other villagers and once again, Mowgli is kicked out of a place he called home. He returns to the jungle with his kill, but will Mowgli ever be accepted into the pack again?
The next tale is The White Seal in which a young seal with an unusual coat witnesses the murder of other seals committed by men. Determined to find a place where his fellow seals can roam free from the dangers of man, the young white seal searches far and wide for such a place, despite others telling him that no such place exists. And even if he does find a place where he would no longer have to hide from man, will anyone believe him?
Next up is a tale that I loved as a young child ever since seeing the cartoon on television Ė Rikki-Tikki-Tavi. This is the tale of a mongoose who washes up after a flood in the garden of a British family stationed in India. At first, the parents arenít certain about bringing the mongoose into their home, but he and their young son Teddy become fast friends and it is clear that they adore one another. But when a pair of cobras nursing eggs threatens the lives of Rikki-Tikkiís people, can one mongoose protect them all?
The final tales are about a young boy thought too small to deal with an elephant herd until he proves to them that he has a special ability that helps him gain their trust and another that explains how all living things serve another. Mixed in between the tales are several poems Rudyard Kipling had placed after every tale in The Jungle Book.
I had never before realized that the tale of Mowgli was not the only story to be found in The Jungle Book, nor did I realize that Kipling had incorporated poetry into his tales as well. What a talented author. Each of the stories has a message for the young Ė that you should praise your differences for they are what make you great, that you should believe in yourself, that loyalty is something to be honored, that size does not always matter. I liked the stories and the art that accompanied them, featuring some classic manga just right for childrenís tales. Manga Classics does it again with their rendition of The Jungle Book, a great way for me and anyone else who hasnít yet had the opportunity to experience this classic.