Just in time for the 2016 theatrical release of Disney’s live-action version of its 1967 adaptation of the Kipling classic comes another opportunistic picture-book version of the same.
Like Laura Driscoll and Migy Blanco’s similarly timed, bland adaptation, Hunter’s picture book combines “Mowgli’s Brothers” and “Kaa’s Hunting,” but it also tosses in a bit of chronologically confused “Tiger! Tiger!” Unexpectedly, perhaps in an attempt to atone for Kipling’s colonialist sins, Hunter locates the action in and just outside a modern Indian city. He also dresses Mowgli in athletic shorts. Both are decidedly unconventional moves that could, in bolder hands, have led to a strikingly revisionist interpretation. Unfortunately, Hunter doesn’t go there. Upon discovering the stolen “man’s cub,” Bagheera takes Mowgli to a pack of feral dogs in the city to be raised, retrieving the boy at 10 to teach him the jungle law in hopes of protecting him from Shere Khan. To the accompaniment of slick, pastel-colored digital illustrations that rely on light outlines as much as dark, Mowgli resists Bagheera and Baloo’s teachings, is captured by “the lawless monkeys,” goes in and out of the city, and eventually triumphs over the tiger. Except in the very broadest of outlines, the story will be unrecognizable to fans of the original stories and the film alike, disappointing purists on both sides. The prose is as undistinguished as the plotting and illustrations.
Another adaptation that should have readers reaching for the original. (Picture book. 5-8)