Rikki-Tikki-Tavi by Rudyard Kipling
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This classic tale, featured originally in The Jungle Book, tells of the brave battle of Rikki-Tikki the mongoose against the deadly cobras, Nag and Nagaina. Rikki-Tikki is swept away from his family by a flood and finds himself a most welcome guest of a human family.
I remember reading this once in school, though I can't remember exactly when, and I was happy to come across it for free on Amazon. It's actually quite an exciting tale, though perhaps a little scary. The snakes, Nag and Nagaina, are sinister and plot the death of the entire family in the big house, hoping that Rikki-Tikki would then move on. But luckily their plot is discovered, and the mongoose defends his adoptive family with every fiber of his being.
The characters are varied and are each entertaining in their own right. I love the idiotic Tailorbird, Danzee. He weeps, sings, and celebrates in turn, without any regard to consequence, mostly because of his short attention span. The little fearful musk-rat, who runs along the walls, but never to the center of the room, is also amusing. His role as informant is important to winning the battle, but mostly because he's afraid he'll be mistaken for the mongoose.
But mostly, I love Rikki-Tikki himself. Too curious to be afraid and fiercely protective of the young family and the creatures of the yard, he is an admirable hero. Brave and funny, and believable, too. When he's not busy saving the day, he scampers around on the breakfast table, perches on the little boy's shoulder, and otherwise endears himself to both the family and the reader.
I also like the poem at the beginning and Danzee's song at the end, cut short because Danzee himself was interupted in the singing by Rikki-Tikki.
Overall, a short, but powerful story of triumph, bravery, and danger. I recommend this one to anyone who likes rooting for the underdog and those who enjoy animal characters.