How the Just So Stories Were Made The Brilliance and Tragedy Behind Kipling’s Celebrated Tales for Little Children John Batchelor

Publication date:
11 May 2021
Yale University Press
240 pages: 235 x 156mm
34 b-w illus.
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A fascinating, richly illustrated exploration of the poignant origins of Rudyard Kipling’s world-famous children’s classic

“In this concise and remarkable book . . . Batchelor guides us expertly . . . drawing on multiple sources and making intriguing connections between Kipling’s stories for children and for adults.”—John Carey, The Sunday Times 

From "How the Leopard Got Its Spots" to "The Elephant’s Child," Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories have delighted readers across the world for more than a century. In this original study, John Batchelor explores the artistry with which Kipling created the Just So Stories, using each tale as an entry point into the writer’s life and work—including the tragedy that shadows much of the volume, the death of his daughter Josephine.
Batchelor details the playful challenges the stories made to contemporary society. In his stories Kipling played with biblical and other stories of creation and imagined fantastical tales of animals' development and man's discovery of literacy.
Richly illustrated with original drawings and family photographs, this account reveals Kipling’s public and private lives—and sheds new light on a much-loved and tremendously influential classic.

Formerly a Fellow of New College, Oxford, John Batchelor is an emeritus professor of Newcastle University. His previous books include The Edwardian Novelists and biographies of Joseph Conrad, John Ruskin, Pauline, Lady Trevelyan, and the great Victorian Poet Laureate Alfred Tennyson.

“A scrupulous and poignant account of how love and loss inspired the Just So Stories”—Kathryn Hughes, The Guardian

“In this concise and remarkable book...Batchelor guides us expertly...drawing on multiple sources and making intriguing connections between Kipling’s stories for children and for adults.”—John Carey, The Sunday Times

“Fluent, engaging and gently erudite”—Boyd Tonkin, The Economist

“Intelligent, balanced, finely-written...John Batchelor, an academic whose own head teems with Edwardian history and books, opens [Kipling] up like a splayed tangerine, each segment of which is tagged to a Just So story.”—Nicola Shulman, The Oldie

“Reading Kipling through the lens of his best-loved book makes a good introduction to his work.”—Janet Montefiore, Times Literary Supplement

“Batchelor discusses each of the stories in turn, interweaving his erudite commentary with a penetrating exploration of Kipling's own story, and of his genius as a writer — not overlooking the brilliance of Kipling as illustrator of his own work.”—John Pridmore, Church Times

“Batchelor’s book brings out the beauty of Kipling’s original volume and reveals much about this sad and complex man.”—Angela Wintle, Sussex Life

'Batchelor’s achievement is to interweave a close reading of Kipling’s Just so Stories and their illustrations with a richly suggestive exploration of Kipling’s complexity as a man and his protean genius as a writer.’—Phillip Mallett, author of Rudyard Kipling: A Literary Life

‘Beautiful … How the Just so Stories Were Made cracks through the imperial crustiness that many detest to reach into the warm heart and cool art of the great craftsman that so many admire. Batchelor movingly illuminates how personal grief and sorrow were integral to Kipling’s finest and most enduring work.’—Nicholas Rankin, author of Dead Man’s Chest: Travels after Robert Louis Stevenson

'John Batchelor is the perfect commentator on the Just so Stories: unobtrusive, knowledgeable, striking just the right balance between literary gossip and erudite illumination. He renews the delight of reading Kipling at his best.’—Alberto Manguel