Tales of young children raised by wolves date back to the legend of Romulus and Remus, the twins who founded Rome. However, none have captivated imaginations as completely as Rudyard Kipling’s stories of young Mowgli and the loyal animals who protect him from harm. First published in 1894, the collection of stories originally featured illustrations by the author’s father, John Lockwood Kipling. Set in the Indian jungle, the stories are morally-inspired fables featuring a plethora of anthropomorphic animals—from Shere Kahn, the Royal Bengal Tiger portrayed here, to Mowgli’s “brothers,” the Brown Bear Baloo and Bagheera the Black Panther.
Raised among her cubs, Mowgli is reared by Mother Wolf, and is taught the ways of the jungle by Baloo, a gentle brown bear. Jerry Pinkney enjoyed the challenge of portraying these and other fully-imagined creatures from Jungle Book because of his life-long love of nature. “I often take walks in the woods surrounding my studio, and I always try to communicate with the animals that I encounter,” he said. “Pausing to look around me, I have watched a red fox crossing the road, spotted deer bounding out of sight, and once, had a heart-stopping encounter with giant turkey vultures just a few feet away. Some days it has felt as if the animals and I were, for a brief time, communicating before moving on with our own lives, and these moments have served as inspiration for my work—particularly for illustrations where the animal is a stand-in for a human.”