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Kim: Reviewed

Author:Rudyard Kipling
Reading Level (Conceptual):Children 12 and up
Reading Level (Vocabulary):Sophisticated readers
Year of publication:1901

When we finally read (and then re-read) the last page of Kim, my barely 12 year-old said to me, "I loved this story. I love Kim. But no more Kipling for a while. It is too hard."

We started reading Kim together in early fall. We finished in mid-December. The difficulty of:

  • The language (and there are many languages used here: British English, of course, but also Irish, Hindi, Urdu, Arabic, others we probably don't know the names of...)
  • The concepts: Tibetan Buddhist vs. Hindu religious beliefs, Islamic concepts, the differences between Catholic and Protestant attitudes, and
  • The politics: What are the Russians, French, British, and the various native Indians trying to accomplish in all their complicated plots
made reading the book a long-term investment.

Some days, we could manage only a few pages, because we had to pause to analyze what had happened, or because we couldn't understand a religious practice, or the meaning of a word distracted us.

Kim is like Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell meet James Bond meet Harriet the Spy, only harder.

Not a book to be read when one is tired.

The novel describes Kim's path to enlightenment, adulthood, and employment as a British spy. We walk with Kim, the young, orphanned son of an English soldier, as he grows up to be Friend of All the World, the perfect chela (caregiver to a Tibetan monk), and player of The Game (spy). And as we adventure with Kim and the lama with whom he strives to "escape the Wheel", we come to know representatives of nearly all the religious sects and political players in colonial India.

Highly recommended for very advanced young readers.

-- Emily Berk

Other reviews: Kim
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