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E. R. Bird
- Publié sur Amazon.com
As a child, I grew up with Kipling stories. My mother would read me "Just So Stories" and selections from the surprisingly long and complex, "Jungle Book" when I was just a wee lass. And had this lush and lovely version of "Rikki-tikki-tavi" been available to me when I was a kid, I've little doubt that I'd have devoured it just as readily as I did tales like, "How the Elephant Got His Trunk". Though I missed out on "Rikki-tikki-tavi" the written tale, I did take great pleasure in the 1975 Chuck Jones animated (with voices by Orson Wells and June Foray) faithful film of the same story. For those of you eager to instill in your children a sharp jolt of Kipling to the veins, I suggest you start them out on "Rikki", both the film and this lovely picture book, then move on slowly to "Just So Stories" and finally, "The Jungle Book" (but not THAT film). Then, years later, when you're trying to get them to read "Stalkey and Company", you'll have already hooked 'em young.
"This is the story of the great war that Rikki-tikki-tavi fought, all by himself, through the English family's house in India". After finding a half-drowned mongoose outside his home, a young boy named Teddy and his family take in the little creature and nurse him to health. A naturally curious creature, the mongoose (named, you must have guessed, Rikki-tikki-tavi for the sounds he makes) explores the home and decides to stay. Good thing that he does too. Lurking in the garden is the deadly cobra Nag and his wife Nagaina. The snakes determine that Rikki is a threat to their unhatched children and decide that if the family dies then Rikki will leave the area. Now Rikki, with the help of the tailor birds Darzee and his wife, must defeat the snakes and defend the family that was kind enough to take him in.
Like "The Secret Garden", this is one of those early children's books that taught me a heckuva lot about British colonialism. When I was a kid, I just could not figure out what the English were doing in India in books like this one. Now, there's little doubt that the danger the family faces mostly comes from the fact that Rikki was in their house in the first place. Nag and Nagaina only plan to kill the family because they believe that Rikki will leave if they do. One element to this tale that I enjoyed was the role that the female creatures take in it. Admittedly, Teddy's mother is so faint of heart that she, "wouldn't think of anything so awful", as the possibility of a snake in her boy's bedroom. But Nagaina is far more powerful than her husband and Darzee's wife (who, unfortunately, hasn't a name of her own) is the one who helps Rikki out in the end. Not her silly hubby.
By the way, someone should let the tailor birds know that when a mongoose is hungry and isn't eating snakes, its next favorite food is bird eggs. If you don't believe me, ask someone from Hawaii sometime. The release of mongoose in Hawaii (to combat the rats) not only decimated the reptiles but also severely reduced the native bird populations. Just FYI.
It is true that Pinkney has edited down and simplified the words of Kipling's original tale to make it more palatable to young ears. Far more criminal than the editing though is the fact that Pinkney makes NO mention of the fact that he has done so anywhere in the book. I've scoured the publication page, title page, and bookflaps for Pinkney's explanation of the change. Nuthin'. For those first time "Tikki" readers, this version will strike them as being the original Kipling text. Pinkney could have at least admitted the changes he made. That he didn't is irresponsible.
Otherwise, it's hard to object to this book. The illustrations are classic Pinkney with Rikki a very realistic (and not particularly cute) mongoose. Knowing Pinkney's fine attention to detail, I wouldn't put it past him to have carefully researched the kinds of plants, birds, and snakes found in India for these lush watercolors. The clothing of the human characters definitely doesn't belong to the days of Kipling, of course. They look far more contemporary, which is fine. The nice thing about "Rikki-tikki-tavi" is that it can really belong to any era.
This is a story that has always been, and will always remain, a classic in the hearts and minds of children everywhere. Pinkney is not the first children's illustrator to adapt this tale. That honor may fall to Lambert Davis. If you are looking for a version of this tale that has NOT been edited down, locate the Davis version (which Amazon.com has inexplicably linked to the Pinkney reviews). Otherwise, for superior pictures and a gripping tale, Pinkney's the man to turn to. A wonderful tale and an even better mongoose.