The Jungle Book

Book review by
Barbara Schultz, Common Sense Media
The Jungle Book Book Poster Image
Mowgli and more in timeless, suspenseful tales.

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age 13+
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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

In itself, The Jungle Book is a classic work of literature, a point of reference for subsequent works that personify animals. This book also encourages readers to see the natural world from different points of view and gain an understanding of the intricate relationship between animal populations that share the same environment.

Positive Messages

The Jungle Book features a few different protagonists, but all of the stories show the importance of respect for the natural world, and the ways that creatures large and small (even children like Mowgli) can gain respect and success by using their own intelligence and understanding.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Young characters learn a lot from mature ones in this book. Mowgli, especially, has a strong role model in Akela the wolf, who teaches through leadership and dignity. Baloo the bear and Bagheera the panther also protect Mowgli and teach him the ways of the Jungle animals. In his story, Rikki Tikki Tavi, the brave mongoose, uses intelligence and ruthlessness to best his enemy and protect his family.

Violence & Scariness

There's certainly violence in these stories, but most of it takes place "offscreen," such as when Rikki Tikki Tavi disappears into a hole, where he apparently kills a cobra, and then emerges victorious; or when Shere Khan is duped by Mowgli, but he's hidden all the while by a herd of cattle. The most overt violence is when Mowgli skins a dead animal, and he "slashed and tore and grunted for an hour." Animals in the stories often talk about killing other animals for food.

Language

Animals insult each other in animal terms -- a snake is offended by monkeys that call him an "earthworm," for example -- but there's no cursing.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Rudyard Kipling's book of short stories The Jungle Book is far less whimsical (and musical) than Disney's classic animated film, and it includes stories with different central characters besides Mowgli, the "mancub" raised by wolves and befriended by Baloo the bear. However, in part because of the charming movie, Mowgli's stories are probably the best loved and best known pieces in the collection. These wonderful stories, which alternate with lyrical poems about the characters, depict a complex and sometimes dangerous natural world in which creatures must respect the "ways of the jungle" in order to coexist. Creatures hunt and kill each other in suspenseful scenes, but almost all violent acts happen "offscreen." In one scene, Mowgli uses his wits to trick an adversary into being killed by a stampeding herd of cattle; the animal's death is not shown, but Mowgli is later described skinning the animal. In general, animals talk about killing others for food. The Jungle Book has been made into a number of film and TV versions, and a sequel to the book, The Second Jungle Book, contains more stories about Mowgli and other jungle creatures.

User Reviews

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Teen, 13 years old Written byrobowilm January 8, 2016
Teen, 13 years old Written bymina 2 November 20, 2016

i loved this book!

i read this book with my dad when i was probably 7 or 8, really good, but read with parent until about 8 or 9, it can be difficult to read

What's the story?

Rudyard Kipling's classic book of short stories THE JUNGLE BOOK contains several pieces about Mowgli, the \"mancub,\" who was taken from his human parents and ends up being raised by a wolf family. The book also includes stories about animal characters: \"Rikki Tikki Tavi,\" about a brave mongoose; \"The White Seal\" about a young seal that swims the Bering Strait; and \"Toomai of the Elephants,\" about a young elephant handler. All of the stories personify animals, and they show the complex relationship between creatures that hunt and fear each other in the wild. In Mowgli's stories, the most well known Jungle Book tales, the young boy grows up surrounded by his wolf family and his loyal friends Baloo the bear and Bagheera the panther. Mowgli struggles for acceptance in the wolf pack while trying to learn the ways of the jungle, avoid being tricked by mischievous monkeys, and evade Shere Khan the tiger, who's always lurking in the shadows.

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Is it any good?

The Jungle Book has fascinated readers for more than 100 years with its unforgettable characters and beautifully rendered animal society. There's loads of action and adventure -- as Mowgli engages in a battle of wits with Shere Khan the tiger, or when Rikki Tikki Tavi protects his family from cobras -- and inspiring messages, too, about respecting the laws of nature and the ways intelligence and understanding can be more effective than brute strength. However, readers who are more familiar with Disney's rendition of The Jungle Book may need some encouragement to appreciate the beauty of the less whimsical original.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the Mowgli in the book different from the one in Disney's animated Jungle Book. What differences are there in the story?

  • What's difficult for Mowgli as he tries to fit in to the human village?

  • Tweens and teens can learn more about Rudyard Kipling's world by watching the PBS series My Boy Jack, starring Daniel Radcliffe as Kipling's son.

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