On the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Ning, I participate in the online conversation of one of the groups about books we are reading. Over the weekend, one of the participants noted that he tended to enjoy books that blended fiction and history and asked for other suggestions. By coincidence, I was just finishing The Jungle Law by Victoria Vinton, an account of Rudyard Kipling set during years he spent with his wife Carolina as a relative newlywed in Vermont after he had already achieved fame.
The parallel story line followed Joe, a young neighbor boy whose mother did the Kiplings' laundry and was called in to Carrie's birthing bedside but was never acknowledged otherwise by the young wife. Joe, however, was the first audience and sounding board for Mowgli's story, which became The Jungle Book.
Back at the NCTE conference in November, where the theme was "Once and Future Classics" President Carol Jago shared her recommendations for the year, as she always does. At this session, playing off the conference theme, she listed Kipling's The Jungle Book, paired with Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book, which bore references to the classic. Having read and loved Gaiman's novel, and now finishing Vinton's, I realize that I have never read The Jungle Book. As Carol reminded us, if you've only seen the Disney movie, you don't really know The Jungle Book.
Now that it has moved into place on my "must read" list, I think I'm going to have to research Kipling too. I want to know how much of Vinton's story was factual and how much was creative invention. No matter what I discover, I must admit that I too love the mix.