The Wind In The Willows: A Review
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The Wind In the Willows: A Review

The Wind in the Willows was written in 1908 by Kenneth Grahame and for me it is the best children's book of all time.

It is a classic children’s book, never out of print, with numerous editions.

It has been adapted for television, film and stage. Many high profile actors have played one of the unforgettable characters.

The story has also been adapted for very young readers many times.

It truly is one of the most popular books of all time.

I adore this book. I have a number of copies and copies of a number of films based on the story.

I became aware of its existence from a collection of extracts in a book called ‘The Boomerang Books.' These were the texts I studied when I was in fourth grade. It was a way students became aware of literature.

Some of the other extracts in the Boomerang Book were:

  • David and Goliath – Walter de la Mare
  • Trade Winds- John Masefield
  • I Will Lift Up Mine Eyes – The Bible
  • The Waters of Lung T’ou - Hsu Ling

I learned about Ratty and his love for the river. The poem Duck’s Ditty was introduced. Toad was boisterous and managed to get his own way. The yellow caravan was Toad’s latest obsession and he managed to get Ratty and Mole to come along on a holiday with him.

The journey begins and the extract ends. In response, I borrowed the book from the library.

Many readers have been deeply affected by this book.

  • Pink Floyd, an English rock band, named their debut album, ‘The Piper at the Gates of Dawn” after the title of chapter seven.
  • American President, Theodore Roosevelt saw the characters as old friends and read and re-read the book.
  • The author of Harry Potter J.K. Rowling said she too was inspired by the book.

The four main characters Rat, Mole, Badger and Mr Toad, are totally engaging. Toad fascinates me. Thanks to his father he is very wealthy and owns the mansion Toad Hall.

Kenneth Grahame was an established author long before ‘The Wind in the Willows’ was published.

He had not planned to publish it at all. The stories were invented as bedtime stories and in letters to his son, an only child who was sickly and willful. It has been suggested that Toad was based on this child.

The stories are set on the banks of the Thames River where Grahame had lived as a boy. The countryside is elegantly described and is very English. The seasons are a feature in the story.

There are two levels in the book. The first is the adventures of Ratty, Mole, Badger and the incorrigible Toad. Toad’s obsession with motor cars lands him in deep trouble and interrupts the tranquil lives of his friends.

The other level is the hint of class struggle from the stoats and weasels that live in the Wild Woods and overtake Toad Hall while Toad is in jail.

The two layers make the novel a perfect one for adults to read. I admit I have enjoyed it more as an adult.

The Wind in the Willows contains humour, wisdom and entertainment and an example of the power of friendship.

The novel opens with Mole leaving his underground home and joining Ratty on the river. Mole’s introduction to Toad is when the adventures begin with the canary coloured caravan. An assortment of motor cars, an escape from jail and a train ride all feature in the story.

Mole, Ratty, and Badger try to save Toad from himself. The story ends with a battle with the stoats and weasels to recapture Toad Hall. But Toad doesn't reform!

E.H. Shepard was the illustrator for the first edition.

The manuscript was shown to an American publisher by Kenneth Graham and it was declined. Later Methuen a British publisher published it.

At first there was a mixed response to the story.

In 1929 A.A. Milne adapted parts of the story into a stage play, ‘Toad of Toad Hall’.This was when the book reached the status of being a classic story.

Kenneth Graham also wrote for adults.

Pagan Papers (1893)

The Golden Age (1895)

Dream Days (1898)

Dream days included another child’s story ‘The Reluctant Dragon’.

I hope many future generations enjoy ‘Wind in the Willows’ as much as I do.

Street Talk

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