I have been a lifelong reader. Growing up in the Maritimes during the early 70’s, we had a mere two, count ’em, two, TV stations – Channel 9 (ATV) & Channel 12 (CBC). Actually there was a third channel, 7, but it was entirely French so it was useless to my Anglophone ears. Also, sometimes it showed naughty things, so my parents made it perfectly clear Channel 7 was totally off limits.
As a result, reading was our window to the world. We had a small library at our school but the highlight of the month was when the Bookmobile stopped on it’s rounds. I don’t remember how many books we were allowed to take out – I just remember my sister & filled our book bags. Whoever thought of a mobile library for rural schools was a genius.
Along with the books we borrowed, we had quite a library of our own. Madeleine L’Engle, Farley Mowat, W.O. Mitchell, J.R.R. Tolkein, C.S. Lewis, L.M. Montgomery, Scott O’Dell. Both of us were strong readers & read well above our grade level. We were blessed with parents who never limited our reading or thought a book was too hard for us. We read everything we could get.
One book we both loved was Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. I loved adventure stories & Tanya loved animals. Perfect. The book itself was an older edition with a red cloth cover. Looking back, it was probably antique, but as a kid, we had no idea. I’m pretty sure we colored in the illustrations, imagining ourselves budding artists. Oy vey.
We were drawn in by the characters & the exotic location. As kids ourselves we tried to imagine living with wolves. As Canadian kids, we had read Farley Mowat’s “Never Cry Wolf”, another brilliant story as far removed from India as one could get. Mowat’s wolves were feral & a little scary.
The wolves in Kipling’s book – particularly Akela & Raksha – seemed civilized. Not just because they could talk, but as the story developed & Mowgli contrasted his life with the pack with life among humans, they seemed almost superior.
Kipling did a brilliant job of bringing the chaos of the Bandar Log to life. The Disney movie made life among the monkeys seem like a lot of fun – who didn’t love King Louie? – but in the book their life is more chaos than convivial. Things ends very badly for the Bandar Log when Kaa the python exacts revenge for their kidnapping of Mowgli.
Every character came to life as we read that book. Every chapter held more & more magic.
I used to think growing up with just two TV stations left me deprived. In hindsight, I don’t think I missed out at all.
Not. At. All.
*Post pictures borrowed from our Elastolin Zoo figurine listing
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