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Big Words for Young Minds–Language in JUST SO STORIES

Kipling was not only a wordsmith but an artist (like his father) who created the illustrations for his "Just So Stories."

Kipling was not only a wordsmith but an artist (like his father) who created the illustrations for his “Just So Stories.”

One of the hallmarks of children’s literature before, say, the 1950s, was its refusal to “dumb down” the language or condescend to children. Rather, the books were designed to grow with the child, and to entertain the parent who was presumably reading to her: For example, take a fresh look at the original Winnie the Pooh stories, E. Nesbit’s novels, the original Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books, or novels like Gene Stratton Porter’s Laddie. Even Beatrix Potter’s tales contain words like “perambulator” and “mackintosh” and “galoshes”.

Rudyard Kipling quite obviously reveled in the sounds of words and their conjuring power. He peppered his humorous Just So Stories with words like “insatiable” and “excruciating“.  The by-colored python rock snake refers to the crocodile as, “This creature in the patent-leather ulster” and as “a man-o-war with an armor-plated upper deck”.   Here are some more terrific vocabulary words to expand your child’s brain–and yours:

  • The Kangaroo admits to having “a pride that’s inordinate“.
  • “Can you help us?” ask the animals. “Decidedly,” answers the Djinn.
  • The bi-colored python rock snake uses words like limpid and vitiate.
  • The Amazon river is described as turbid (which is, by the way, the opposite of limpid).
  • The Jaguar’s Mother uses the words alternative and delicacies.
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