The Wind in the Willows

The Wind in the Willows cover

Given that Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows is 100 years old this year, I suspect many youngsters only know it, if they know it at all, as a ride at Disneyworld, instead of the classic children’s book it’s reported to be. I’d never read it before, myself, so I appreciated the chance to learn about the adventures of these woodland creatures, especially with such lovely pictures.

Papercutz has chosen this adaptation by Michel Plessix (originally published in English in 1997) to relaunch the long-running Classics Illustrated name-brand. This is part of the Deluxe line, which means it’s available in both hardback and softcover, and the stories are longer.

The tales here are episodic, as the animals have adventures or take trips. As the book opens, Mole is fed up with his spring cleaning, so he decides to skip it. He bumps into Water Rat, and the two of them go boating and have a picnic on the river. It’s a charming portrait of a bygone age, where animals talk without incessant wisecracks and the most modern technology available is the newly introduced motorcar, a particular craze of Toad’s.

The Wind in the Willows cover

The scenery is, as I mentioned, very attractive, accompanied by poetic narration. The only element that rang false to me is the design of Rat, who looks like a Disney rabbit. He doesn’t really match the quiet Mole, which glasses perched on the end of his long pointy nose, or Lord Toad, who reminds me of Beatrix Potter’s Jeremy Fisher. Still, I got over it quick enough, seduced by the portraits of the changing seasons and the comfort of a simple meal with friends.

There’s lots of humor, too, as the bumbling, full of himself Toad winds up in prison, which leads to squatters almost taking over his baronial home. That’s the key behind most of these stories, a love of home and hearth made comfortable for friendly hospitality. The book, if read with the same care with which it was created, will create an appreciation of nature and a relaxed feel that’s quite refreshing.

(A complimentary copy for this review was provided by the publisher.)

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