It's hard to imagine exactly why the editors chose to match the imperialist certainties and verbal fluidity of Kipling with Delessert's spare, translucent surrealism, but the conjunction is as brilliant as it is baffling. Delessert's beautifully disturbing illustrations suggest some hitherto unsuspected primal depths in Kipling -- the ghostly Animal summoned from the bottom of the sea by Suleiman-bin-Daoud holds a giant knife and fork between his humanoid hands, the (castrating?) crocodile draws blood as he chomps Elephant Child's trunk between his teeth, butterfly-winged letters of the alphabet float from the mouths of a zombieish Taffy and her carp-faced Dad. For all their unsettling qualities, sophisticated wit is the primary motive: a pastel oasis blooms at the top of the Camel's hump, the ""speckly-spickly"" shadows of the aboriginal Flora-forest are properly zebra/giraffish, and ""How the First Letter Was Written"" is accompanied by a house-size airmail envelope addressed to Messrs. Kipling and Delessert at Doubleday. O Best Beloved, you may never have imagined Kipling Just So, but that's all the more reason not to miss the enjoyment of watching Delessert strip these 'stute little origin tales to their subconscious substrata. How much of this children will ctach on to is another question entirely, but our guess is that they're more likely to be confused than upset by it.