Just So Stories

The Just So Stories are a series of short stories for children written by English writer and poet Rudyard Kipling. 

They began as stories Kipling told to his little daughter, Josephine, and were first published in 1902.

The stories are delightful, fantastical tales which explain how various things - mainly animals - came to be.

They're great fun to read and work wonderfully well for reading aloud to children. 

Although the stories were written a long time ago, they're classics of the English language which is why I've written this page and why I think it's such a great idea to share them with young children.

Kids need to be exposed to a variety of different types of language so that they develop wonderful rich vocabularies and an important pre-reading skill called phonological awareness. 

Kipling's use of rhythm and language is fantastic which means that children, as they listen to the stories, unconsciously absorb vital information about how language works.

The stories are each about 6-8 pages long so they make great bedtime stories. 

They work best with children aged between three and five, the age Kipling's daughter was when he began to invent the stories for her.

Sadly, Josephine died in 1899 of pneumonia when she was only six.

josephine kiplingJosephine Kipling in 1895

About the Just So Stories

Each of the stories tells of an animal which is changed from its original form to its current form by the act of a man or of some magical being.

For example, How the Camel got his Hump tells the story of how a hump was given to the camel by a djinn as punishment for the camel refusing to work so that the camel would be able to work longer between feedings.

Some of the tales also have a moral or a cautionary message to them which was common with stories written for children in Kipling's day. For example, the camel was punished because he was lazy.

The original editions of the stories were illustrated by Kipling himself. The black-and-white drawing above is one of Kipling's illustrations for The Elephant's Child. 

Kipling's novel, The Second Jungle Book, published in 1895, contains a story which was probably a fore-runner to the Just-So Stories. It's called 'How Fear Came' in which Mowgli hears the story of how the tiger got his stripes. 

List of the 'Just So Stories'

The full list of Just So Stories is -

  1. How the Whale Got His Throat
  2. How the Camel Got His Hump
  3. How the Rhinoceros Got His Skin
  4. How the Leopard Got His Spots
  5. The Elephant's Child
  6. The Sing-Song of Old Man Kangaroo
  7. The Beginning of the Armadillos
  8. How the First Letter Was Written
  9. How the Alphabet Was Made
  10. The Crab That Played with the Sea
  11. The Cat That Walked by Himself
  12. The Butterfly That Stamped
  13. The Tabu Tale (missing from UK editions)

The individual stories have also been published separately, often inpicture-book format designed for younger children. 

If you'd like to read more about the author of the Just So Stories, Rudyard Kipling - including how he ended up with such a weird first name - click here. 

To listen to free audio versions of some of the stories, check out the wonderful storynory.com site.

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