I like to read to the boys most nights before bed. I have found that it soothes them down and that they sleep better on the nights that we have had our stories. Our books started off short and sweet. Good Night Moon was a constant (and ongoing) favorite, but as the boys got older, we turned toward longer chapter books. We have read the Ramona books from Beverly Cleary, The Hobbit, The Wizard of Oz, the Wind and the Willows, Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales, and many more. One of their favorite authors has been Rudyard Kipling. Their love started with a little story called Rikki-Tikki-Tavi. If you aren’t familiar with the story, it is about a valiant young mongoose protecting his adoptive British family against a pair of malicious cobras (I know that this sounds like something that would keep children up at night, but the boys never once had trouble sleeping after reading Rikki-Tikki-Tavi). The story Rikki-Tikki-Tavi is just one of many short stories in Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book and the boys were, of course, interested in reading more of his stories. As young boys themselves, they both particularly enjoyed the stories focusing on Mowgli.
After reading the book, I showed them the 1967 Disney animated film, The Jungle Book, which had been a favorite of most of the males in the family growing up. While the film brought forth a lot of questions (Where was Rikki-Tikk-Tavi? Why does Baloo look exactly like Little John from Robin Hood? Why does Kaa sound like Winnie the Pooh), the boys thoroughly enjoyed it and it fit nicely into their favorite film rotation. Of course, when they saw a preview several months ago for Disney’s latest adaptation of The Jungle Book, they were eager to see it. David and I finally took them this weekend and we were not disappointed. The CGI effects in the new film are incredible and you get completely lost in the story. Young newcomer Neel Sethi does an incredible job carrying the weight of the film on his shoulders, and mad kudos go out to director Jon Favreau for getting such an incredible performance out of a young performer who basically had to act opposite puppets for the entirety of filming. The voice casting was phenomenal and there is honestly not a single actor I would have changed. The film does reincorporate some of the scarier aspects of Kipling’s story that the original Disney version glossed over (mostly in regard to do with the evilness of the film’s tiger villain Shere Khan) but it also pays tributes to favorite moments in the original film (especially the songs). My least favorite parts of the film were those dealing with King Louie but they were also my least favorite parts of the 1967 film. It had nothing to do with the performances (Christopher Walken was awesome) or the effects, I just don’t like that part of the story and have always felt that it took away from the larger story as a whole (although in this adaptation it goes a long way in developing the character of Baloo).
A lot of people have said that the film is too scary for kids, but I didn’t find it overly alarming for my kids (of course, they are also crazy about all of the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies so they aren’t easily frightened by what they see in films). It may not be suitable for younger children or those who are easily frightened though, so use your discretion when taking children.