October 16, 2013

Just So Stories (Volume I)

Written by Rudyard Kipling
Illustrated by Ian Wallace
Groundwood Books
64 pp.
Ages 5+
September 2013

It would be absurd to review Rudyard Kipling's famous Just So Stories For Little Children, first published in 1902.  A hundred years of reading easily secure these stories in the realm of classics.  But having Ian Wallace put his artistic genius to work in this new interpretation of Kipling's work is worthy of note.

Ian Wallace, who has authored a number of books and illustrated over twenty picture books including The Sleeping Porch (Groundwood, 2008), Chin Chiang and the Dragon's Dance (Groundwood, 1990), and The Mummer's Song (Groundwood, 2009), allows each of the six Just So Stories here to stand alone with respect to their illustrations, while still providing a filament of similar artistry in them.  The soft textures and colours of the jungle or the ocean or the desert all suggest the dream-like lyricism of Kipling's words. No illustrations are so bold in colour or outline that they overwhelm the stories.  Ian Wallace astutely illustrates to enhance and complement the stories, never to overtake them. 

While I have neither the expertise nor direct knowledge of Ian Wallace's techniques, I consumed his thorough "Illustrator's Notes" appended to the stories.  Here he discusses his work with watercolour, pencil crayon, pastel pencil and chalk in different combinations.  The melding of media under Ian Wallace's careful eye and hand affect the alarm of the crocodile pulling at the elephant's nose (in The Elephant's Child);  the dry, sandy desert in How the Camel Got His Hump; or the Mariner's ruckus inside the Whale in How the Whale Got His Throat.  The illustrations are detailed and comprehensive, as well as evocative and whimsical, exactly as Rudyard Kipling wrote his stories.  Ian Wallace has done great justice to Kipling's Just So Stories and created an exquisite edition that will be cherished as a classic in itself.

Just So Stories, Volume II is scheduled for release in April, 2014.

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