What’s it all about?:
Meet little Mole, willful Ratty, Badger the perennial bachelor, and petulant Toad. In the one hundred years since their first appearance in 1908, they’ve become emblematic archetypes of eccentricity, folly, and friendship. And their misadventures-in gypsy caravans, stolen sports cars, and their Wild Wood-continue to capture readers’ imaginations and warm their hearts long after they grow up. Begun as a series of letters from Kenneth Grahame to his son, The Wind in the Willows is a timeless tale of animal cunning and human camaraderie.
What did I think?:
Upon beginning The Wind in the Willows, I was instantly familiar with the stories of Toad and the gang, and I was trying to remember if I had read it previously as a child. Then my sister Chrissi reminded me that when we were younger I used to have a beautiful hardback edition of the book complete with illustrations, that I was delighted to also find on my Kindle edition as an adult. Kenneth Grahame was a Scottish author, most famous for The Wind in the Willows which became a classic of children’s literature. It was interesting to read that he based the headstrong character of Mr Toad upon the personality of his own son, Alistair.
The book begins by introducing us to Mole, who is carrying out some essential maintenance of his underground home. Whitewashing the walls soon becomes a bit of a bore however and he heads up to the surface, which is when he meets the second of our main characters, the Water Rat, or more affectionately Ratty, as he comes to be known. The two soon become fast friends, with Ratty teaching Mole all about his home, the river, and how to row a boat. Ratty also tells Mole about his other friend, Mr Badger, quite a reclusive, mysterious character who doesn’t come out or entertain all that much and lives in the eerie-sounding Wild Woods. Mole’s curiosity about the old Badger exceeds his trepidation over the Wild Woods and he sets out one day to try and find Badger, unfortunately getting lost and becoming incredibly terrified along the way, until his reliable friend Ratty comes to save him. The nice part about this adventure is that even though the friends become stuck in a snow storm they do end up finding Mr Badger’s home and the kind gentleman offers to house them until the weather improves.
Most of the other adventures in this book involve our last main character, Mr Toad. And what a character he is! He is brash, excitable and boastful, and also tends to become fixated on a certain activity, even if it gets him into trouble along the way. This is certainly true when he decides that owning a motor car would be the best thing in the world, even if it ends up landing him in jail. He cries and wails and refuses to eat, but doesn’t remain down for long, when he realises that by disguising himself as a washer woman he can escape jail and return to his beloved Toad Hall. He crows and boasts to his friends about his incredible escape, until he realises that in his absence, a group of stoats and weasels have taken over his home. Well, its Mole, Badger and Ratty to the rescue as they work out a plan to remove the unwelcome guests and perhaps produce a humbler, more thankful Toad in their efforts.
As I was reading this book as an adult, I was trying to remember my thoughts of it as a child, and funnily enough, they haven’t really changed. My favourite character still happens to be the loveable Mole, fiercely loyal to his friends, brave and adventurous when they need him most. As for Mr Toad, I remember really disliking him as a child, although I found him amusing, and this opinion hasn’t really changed, although as an adult I appreciate the message the author was trying to get across with this character. One of the things I loved most about this book though was the illustrations, which are absolutely beautiful and really make this story something special. This book was first published in 1908, yet I think it is still a timeless piece of children’s literature that can still be enjoyed today. We have some wonderful characters (animals that talk, always a bonus!), a few morals, and some life lessons all bundled up as an exciting and quite sweet story about the importance of our friends.
Please check out Chrissi’s fabulous review on her blog HERE.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):
Illustration by Paul Bransom from The Project Gutenberg ebook