Five classics for 2019: Kim


We have five classics for you and your students to explore this year. When we read a story, we read so much more than the plot. Stories, and especially classics, open the door to multiple worlds, which can become exciting territories for classroom activities and projects. In this series we give a short overview of our new stories: the author, the plot, the characters, the adaptation, the various classroom learning possibilities and some background information about the creation of the reader. The classroom learning projects are mostly CLIL projects (history, science, geography, literature, philosophy, psychoglogy, art) and language areas. Apart from these short overviews, we also prepare detailed lesson and project plans for each title. Watch out for these posts on our blog.

In this post we introduce Kim by Rudyard Kipling (Level 3 reader). The adaptation and activities were written by Janet Borsbey and Ruth Swan, and the story was illustrated by Gianluca Garofalo.

The other new titles are:

1 Who is the author?

Facts about Rudyard Kipling’s life

  • Rudyard Kipling was born in 1865 in Bombay (now Mumbai), India.
  • His parents were both English, and when Kipling was five years old, he went to school in England.
  • He hated leaving India and his home to go to school.
  • When he left school, he returned to India and worked for a newspaper.
  • After a successfully published collection of short stories, he decided to become a full-time writer in 1889.
  • He travelled a lot
  • He lived for a while in the United States.
  • In the early 20th century, Kipling was one of the most widely read writers in the English language.
  • Kipling also wrote poems.
  • In 1907, he won the Nobel Prize for Literature.
  • He died in London in 1936.

2 What do we need to know about the story?

It is the story of a journey through India. Kim is a British boy, who lost his parents and now lives in India. When he meets a lama from Tibet, he decides to travel with him in his search for a special river. However, it is not just a simple adventure story as Kim is also training to become a secret agent and he is learning about the world at the same time.

Like many other novels in the 19th century, the story was first published as a series for a monthly magazine.

The setting

The story is set in British India between 1893 to 1898, after the Second Anglo-Afghan War. Kim’s journey begins in Lahore (now in Pakistan), and he spends time in Simla, another important city in Northern India.

The characters

The characters in Kim. Illustration by Gianluca Garofalo. © Helbling 2019

3 Why did we choose this title for adaptation?

Having used ‘Kim’s game’ in class time and time again to teach and revise vocabulary, the next natural step was to adapt his story for language-learners to enjoy. Kim combines a great story with beautiful descriptions of life in India, the exciting context of the ‘Great Game’, plus a spiritual dimension that is very contemporary. We hope you enjoy it!

4 How can you use this reader for language learning? 

CLIL and discussion topics

Choose one discussion and research topic for a group of students to explore.


  • British India and the Great Game
  • Espionage


  • India
  • India’s endangered animals


  • Identity
  • India’s religions
  • Code breaking

Watch out for our project lesson plans for more detailed activities based on these topics.

Language stuctures

  • Narrative tenses (simple past, past continuous and present perfect)
  • Pronouns: reflexive, relative
  • should, shouldn’t

Vocabulary development

  • Describing feelings and sensations
  • Describing the natural world
  • Travel
  • Military lexis
  • Religious lexis

5 How did we create the reader?

The original text of the novel was simplified for elementary-level learners, avoiding complex grammar and sentence structures and minor plot strands that may lead to confusion. The vocabulary is only simplified as much as it is necessary to make it comprehensible for language learners at this stage.

The story was illustrated by Gianluca Garofalo.

Here is a simple chart about our reading levels.

Helbling Reader levels.

Read more stories in the Helbling Readers series written by Rudyard Kipling:

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