cover image Rikki-Tikki-Tavi


Rudyard Kipling, Jerry Pinkney. HarperCollins, $17.99 (48pp) ISBN 978-0-688-14320-6

Pinkney (The Jungle Book: The Mowgli Stories) applies his considerable talents to the smooth retelling and lush illustration of one of Kipling's best-loved animal tales. An English family living in India can hardly foresee their good fortune when a scraggly-looking mongoose literally washes up on their doorstep. But Rikki-tikki-tavi (so named for the clucking sounds he makes) becomes champion protector of garden and household as he courageously defends his new human friends from the dangerous snakes living on the grounds. Kipling's exotic animal world comes to life in the voices of Rikki-tikki and other talkative creatures, and Pinkney carefully structures his descriptive passages to present well-rounded animal characters. The hissing, threat-filled dialogue of wicked cobras Nag and Nagaina and Darzee the bird's excited calls of warning perfectly express their respective personalities. Even pacing allows the excitement to build gradually and rewards readers with several adrenaline-rush payoffs within the story. Full-bodied watercolors showcase visually thrilling confrontations between Rikki-tikki and his slithering enemies, while portraits of Rikki-tikki snuggling with the family are warm without being sappy. A captivating work. All ages. (Sept.)