I dedicate this book to my mother, who read to us from Kipling, Dickens, and Robert Louis Stevenson.
Mother took requests. How many times did I ask for “the story of the great war that Rikki-tikki-tavi fought single-handed, through the bathrooms of the big bungalow”? So many times that, when I learned to read, it felt right to reach for The Jungle Books.
Yet not until ten years after Mother was gone did I notice that Kipling puts only three syllables in Chu-chun-dra, the name of the muskrat who “never comes out into the middle of the floor, but always creeps round by the wall.”
Mother gave it four beats—”Chu-chu-RUN-dra.”
I tried Kipling’s version, but it didn’t feel right, so I kept on giving that famous muskrat’s name the proper beat of four.
PS – Sunday afternoons, Mother read to us from Egermeier’s Bible Story Book.