A picture-book adaptation of “Mowgli’s Brothers,” the first tale in Kipling’s The Jungle Book, with a little bit of “Kaa’s Hunting” thrown in.
Driscoll gets the basic details of the stories down: Mowgli is adopted into the wolf pack under the protection of Bagheera and Baloo; Mowgli learns the ways of the jungle; Mowgli runs off and gets in trouble with the monkeys; Mowgli notices his difference from the animals in his family; Mowgli steals fire from the nearby village and uses it to defeat Shere Khan; Mowgli leaves the jungle to go live with men. And, unfortunately, the entire narrative is just about as bloodless as that summary. Blanco’s illustrations are ever-so-slightly retro in palette and line, his animals slinky and sinuous, with human-shaped eyes. Though not conspicuously like the animated Disney versions of the characters, they have an affinity, particularly in the depiction of tousle-headed Mowgli and bug-eyed Kaa. (Readers familiar with the 1967 Disney film will be puzzled to find the latter character Mowgli’s friend and ally rather than a threat.) His junglescapes are distinctly un-jungly. Taken as a whole, the illustrations cannot compensate for the lackluster text. It has none of Kipling’s verbal artistry nor even enough of its own to make the events it recounts exciting or moving.
Adults who want to move beyond the Disney versions are advised to skip this book and stick to a read-aloud of Kipling’s original, sumptuous prose. (Picture book. 4-8)