Not So Stories edited by David Thomas Moore takes Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories and flips it on it’s head. With 12 stories from diverse authors, that redirect the subtext of the Empire and British Colonialism in Just So Stories, to stories that embrace independence and mock the empire. This book is not as kid friendly as the original, but would still fall in the Young Adult category as far as content goes. These stories like the original work on one level but are filed with subtext. The collection is a good mix of stories I felt some fit perfectly, but a couple of the tales were a stretching a bit to include them. In anticipation for this review I read the original Just So Stories, where as before I had read a story here or there. I would recommend reading that collection so you will get all the references in this book, it is not required but will add to some of the stories. I reviewed each tale separately to give each author their due. Out of the 12 stories I rated 5 stories with 5 stars, 4 stories with 4 stars, 1 story 3 stars and 2 stories 2 stars. Thanks to Netgalley and Abaddon Books for letting me read this Advanced copy. Not So Stories was published on January 21 2020.
The Plots and Reviews:
How the Spider Got Her Legs by Cassandra Khaw is a story that would have fit into the original Just So Stories. Where a spider born with one leg gets 8 and becomes poisonous. It used “to my beloved” too much as it was more mocking than acknowledging the original text. The story was fun a good opener. I rated this story 3 out of 5 stars.
Queen by Joseph Elliott-Coleman This was a fantastic story, more young adult than middle grade. This story involves a captured panther that is forced to fight other Panther’s. a good story with a lot of subtext and allegories to slavery. 5 out of 5 stars. This may be the stand out story.
Best Beloved by Wayne Santos I don’t know if this story really fit, it is about a man saying “Beloved” a term Kipling would often repeat at the beginning. The story is a man working for the East India Trading Company gets a girlfriend in China that he is very controlling, the girlfriend has an interesting job putting seals up so ghost don’t break through, but one does . A good story, good ending 4 out of 5
The Man Who Played With the Crab by Adiwijaya Iskandar was my least favorite so far it was uneven and felt longer than it was. It was about a fisherman seeking revenge on a giant crab, he takes a father and son hostage as they can reach this particular crab. I rated this story 2 out of 5 stars
Samsāra by Georgina Kamsika is a truly great story, where Nina visits her dead Grandmother’s home and finds out why she stopped visiting. A really good story of acceptance of death and one’s self. I don’t know if this story belonged in this collection, but it was fantastic. 5 out of 5 stars.
Serpent, Crocodile, Tiger by Zedeck Siew I loved the first part of this story, then it got hard to understand what is going on, at the end of is explained where the story comes from which really helps. The story is a crocodile trucks his mom to explore away from the river, and he turns into a tiger, but also can resemble a man? I rated this story 2 out of 5 stars.
How the Tree of Wishes Gained its Carapace of Plastic by Jeannette Ng this was a short one, but I enjoyed it. I did wonder for a bit where this one was going, but the ending really tied it up and have the story meaning. This story highlights on the weight of wishes, both figuratively and literally. I rated this story 4 out of 5 stars.
How the Ants Got Their Queen by Stewart Hotston a really clever story about the rise and overthrow of a dictator, to realize maybe they need a dictator for some time. This was my favorite so far. I rated this story 5 out of 5.
How the Snake Lost its Spine by Taurus Moosa this was another clever story and one that truly fit this collection. The great snake used to have a spine making it tall, it could see danger coming and protected the other animals from the white devils (man). But one day the lion worked out a plan with man to trick the snake to betrayal. I rated this book 5 out 5 stars.
The Cat Who Walked by Herself by Achala Upendran this is a direct throwback to the original story of the Cat Who Walked by Himself in Just So Stories. The characters are the same but now the cat is female, and the situation is different. This time man is trying to domesticate an independent woman the cat see this and tries to help. I rated this story 5 out of 5 stars.
Strays Like Us by Nina Hutton a story of a long forgotten cat God finally being seen again. I thought this story was okay, there’s a really good scene where the cat God gets a hotel that is not cat friendly. I like what the story says on independence and domestication. I rated this story 4 out of 5.
How the Simurgh Won Her Tail by Ali Nouraei a really sweet story about a grandfather visiting his sick granddaughter and telling stories. The granddaughter is in a cancer ward and he tells a story that relates to there struggles. This story was easy to follow and got all the right notes. I rated this story 5 out of 5.
There is Such Thing as a Whizzy-Gang by Raymond Gates is an Australian tale, about and Uncle telling his young nephew to look out for the Whizzy-gang, by the shrub in the front lawn. It is a story asking if your imagination can create something real. I enjoyed this simple story. I rate this story 4 out of 5 stars.
How the Camel Got Her Paid Time Off by Paul Krueger one of the more contemporary pieces. This story acknowledges two Just So Stories How the Camel Got His Hump and The Elephant’s Child. This story lies heavily on puns, some land while others do not. I liked this story but did not enjoy the ending, I rated this story 4 out of 5 stars.”
What I Liked: The variety of stories really really stuck out to me. The prologue to the book was really insightful to Kipling’s Just So Stories, especially the subtext, and to why this new collection had to be made. I liked the stories that gave odes to the original text like The Cat Who Walked by Herself and How the Camel Got Her Paid Time Off. both tales offered fresh takes while acknowledging the original.
What I Disliked: Only one story attempted the rhyming pattern and the repetition of words that Kipling did for every story in the original. The story were not written to be read out loud. I would have rearranged the order of the stories the book seems to go old to contemporary time, but this allowed some of the stories not to gel. The last half of the book had the better more consistent pieces.
Recommendations: I will recommend you check out this collection even if you haven’t read Just So Stories. I got a lot out of the stories, most are fun with all stories having that extra layer of subtext that really makes you feel the importance of the work. I rated No So Stories 4 out of 5 stars.