Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories, a beloved collection of tall tales and wonder stories for young children, was originally published in 1902. Over 100 years later his timeless, fanciful imaginings continue to delight children and parents alike. Despite their ongoing popularity and the enduring delight Kipling’s writings have brought to the public, it was only two years ago that I was personally introduced to “The Elephant’s Child”, one of his best known short stories included in Just So Stories.
The humorous cadence, repetitive phrases and childlike sense of wonder enthralled our family immediately as we listened to the unlikely web Kipling spun as he explained how the elephant came to have a long trunk. Since that time we’ve listened to various versions of selected Just So Stories that are now available online for free (the work is in the public domain), but I doubt that any of the narrators capture the spirit of Kipling’s work as accurately as Phoenix Audio’s reader – the incomparable Carl Reiner.
Reiner’s big, bouncing voice plays up to the sense of incredulity found within Kipling’s words. He’s the perfect reader for an audio book that so effectively takes advantage of the wide-eyed innocence of childhood. Alternately jolly and mock serious, his timing and inflection are bang-on. Even without an inherent appreciation for the stories themselves, Reiner is a delight to listen to.
This digitally mastered, unabridged recording is available on two CDs with a total running time of approximately two hours. Each disc is pleasantly graced with Kipling’s original artwork featuring the elephant’s child in the process of having his trunk stretched for him, as it appears on the outer cardboard casing. However, the CDs are unfortunately bereft of iTunes information; if you’re as iTunes dependent as I’ve become for cataloguing and searching through my audio collection you’ll need to enter story titles and information manually for each track.