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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Just So Stories for Little Children, Volume 1. Written by Rudyard Kipling and illustrated by Ian Wallace. Groundwood Books, 2013. $19.95 ages 6 and up

"But just as he was going to eat it there came down to the beach from the Altogether Uninhabited Interior one Rhinoceros with a horn on his nose, two piggy eyes, and few manners. In those days the Rhinoceros's skin fitted him quite tight. There were no wrinkles in it anywhere. He looked exactly like a Noah's Ark Rhinoceros, but of course much bigger."

The stories are old, and their appeal is just as strong as it has always been. The difference can be found in the brand new illustrations. Of them, Ian Wallace has this to say:

"When I sat down to read them as an adult, I understood why she held them in such high regard. They are simply remarkable - magical and mythic, replete with stunning word play, vocabulary, wit, poetry and prose; global in their reach; and, as important for an artist, ripe with visual images. I was hooked. I couldn't wait to put my mark on Kipling's fertile imagination, which opened up a treasure trove of possibilities."

Ian Wallace's invitation to us to share these classic tales comes on the remarkably designed cover. It wraps around the book and, in the beauty of the sunset and its transformation to the dark of night, gives us a visual hint at the stories to be shared in this first volume. I love that the reflections reveal the animals' transformations. If you are as observant as young children tend to be, you will take note that there are six tales to be told.

For each of the six stories, the artist has created four full-color, full page illustrations, using watercolour, pencil crayon, pastel pencil and chalk. Each scene is full of detail and light. The palette for each story is impeccably matched to the setting. The colors are bold when needed, and softened when the story calls for it. (Interesting to see what the whale has swallowed from trash-laden waters, and I love that the toys are in keeping with the times the stories were originally told!) In every case, one of the four is accompanied by a text selection. Don't miss reading the illustrator's note that follows the final tale. It is very enlightening concerning the process used for creating this luminous work.

There is little to be said about the stories themselves. They are have been honored over the past more than one hundred years. It is wonderful to have a newly illustrated and very impressive collection of some of the tales. It is my understanding that Volume 2 will be on bookshelves in the spring of 2014. I will look forward to that with high regard for Mr. Wallace's work and anticipation of reading those marvelous stories one more time! 

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