Monday, October 24, 2011

Peas in a Pod: Books that Compliment One Another

Seems to be the week of observations!  Here's a quick observation about a few books that go very well together, like just the right flavors served up on a plate.  We just finished reading Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book; one of the author's last stories in that book is about a young elephant handler in India in the late 1800's.  It is called "Toomai of the Elephants".  It's quite wonderful, really.  A glimpse back in time of a relationship with a boy and his mighty friend, Kala Nag.  We found all of Kipling's stories to be delicious, especially the adventures of Rikki Tikki Tavi, brave mongoose that he was!

You'll find a nice short summary of the Toomai's story HERE; You can read the entire story online HERE.

At the end of the book, the Puffin Classic version of The Jungle Book offers some information about Kipling's life, about wild animals, about the time period.  Makes for good discussion and a nice wrap up.

While browsing through a shop today I again ran into the book titled Modoc:  The True Story of the Greatest Elephant That Ever Lived, a book which has been on my reading list for awhile now. 

This story is also set in about the same time period and plays out for the reader a strong bond between a boy and an elephant.  In one adventure, Modoc has an experience with the Mahout elephant trainers of India.  Click!  Toomai in Kipling's imagination was also a boy growing up among the Mahouts.  That's when my brain made the connection.  The Mahouts are legendary in their abilities to handle elephants, although some of their 'handling' methods are painful to read about, if you ask me.  But I've never worked with an elephant........

Looks like there might be some controversy regarding whether or not Modoc is a true story, but nonetheless it is written by a gentleman who believes in using kind training methods when he works with animals, so if THAT'S true, then the guy deserves some respect.  Would read well right after a trip through Rudyard Kipling's stories. 

And then for some adult reading, you can head on over to the Life of Pi by Yann Martel.  Another connection with India and wild animals, only this time two unlikely species end up in a small boat afloat for 200 plus days out at sea; one of them is a Bengal Tiger, the other a human boy.  If you haven't read it, I won't spoil it for you.This story is a little heavier on the scale of weighty reading - it is pretty fantastical - so maybe more suitable for older teens or young adults.  It also deals with a boy searching for himself admidst three different religions, which might make for several interesting discussions were you to share it with your older child.  It's somewhat slow to get started; I remember kind of glazing over at first.  Sounds like a great read, doesn't it?  The boy's ability to understand and work with the tiger psyche is worth reading about. 
For whatever reason, my brain says that these books go together.  If you happen to be learning about India or elephants or handling animals, you might try tucking these into your curriculum, two for your child, one for you!  Good stuff.

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