by Rudyard Kipling
If you've ever seen a spy thriller (as a movie), or read one (as a book), you may have encountered a fascinating little training exercise known as Kim's Game. Basically, it's an exercise in noticing as much as possible at a glance. If you can look for one second at an assortment of objects and then describe them with precision and accuracy, you may be a good spy. It's both a test and a tool to build your powers of observation and recall. The reason it's called Kim's Game, is that it comes from this 1901 book, which is partly an espionage thriller, but mostly a love story between a boy of British extraction and his native land, India.
Kim, the "little friend of all the world," is a British orphan boy running around wild in the Indian city of Lahore in about 1900. He rubs elbows with Muslims, Hindus, and all kinds of sects and ethnic groups. Being small and fleet of foot, he carries out little missions of intrigue-- smuggling, messengering, even a little espionage.
Soon Kim is being groomed to be a real spy, while going to an expensive school and (later) following a Tibeten lama on a pilgrimage. In between dangerous tight spots and crafty adventures, Kim grows to love his master, and to be loved in return. And through their eyes, you see a kaleidoscope of colorful people, strange and exotic places and customs, often conflicting but sometimes complementary lines of loyalty and interest, and the coming of age of an appealing young hero whose special gift is "to be all things to all people."
To read this book, you must be open to receiving a whole new vocabulary, and ready to learn about the far-out concepts of different cultures and religions at a point in history when the British Empire was at its peak. You may, of course, question the religious convictions (or lack of them) that Kipling preaches, but many of us could stand to model our approach to foreign cultures on his respectful, even admiring, attitude. The richness of their tradition, and the variety of traditions intermingled, described by a gifted writer who could have aced Kim's Game any day of the week, makes Kim simply a feast for the senses.
Recommended Age: 12+
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