Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The wind in the willows

The wind in the willows

Kenneth Grahame
Illustrator:  Inga Moore 
For ages 8 and up
Candlewick Press, 2009   ISBN: 0763642118

The Mole is fed up with spring cleaning. In fact he is so fed up that he throws down his white-washing brush and he digs his way through the earth until he reaches the meadow above. There he finds the warm sun and the soft breezes of spring awaiting him. Elated by the beauty of the day, Mole goes off for a walk. His ramblings lead him to the astonishing and delightful River, a place he has never seen before. It also brings him to the doorstep of the Water Rat. “Ratty,” being a terribly friendly and easy-going sort of animal, invites Mole to go for a picnic with him. The two new friends set out in Ratty’s little row boat, and they have a truly “enchanted afternoon” together.

That very evening Ratty invites Mole to live with him. He offers to teach the Mole how to row and swim,  and all in all, how to appreciate the River and all its mysteries and beauties. Mole accepts this wonderful invitation, and he is soon part of the river community.

One glorious day, some time after their initial meeting, the Mole and the Rat decide to go and visit Toad at his very grand home, Toad Hall. Before they quite know what has hit them, the ebullient and excitable Toad has convinced them to go on an expedition with him in his “canary coloured cart.” The cart is Toad’s latest fad - his newest hobby - and the two friends agree to go along. Unfortunately, the adventure ends badly, and Toad is infected with a new interest. Carts are now a thing of the past,; they are “common” and not worthy of his attention. No indeed, now Toad is obsessed with motor cars, and as we soon find out, they are the cause of his downfall, and what a fall it is too.

The various adventures of Toad, Mole, Rat and their other friends are both gripping and delightful. Toad’s misadventures are sure to amuse readers of all ages.  This is a superb abridgement of Kenneth Grahame’s marvelous, timeless, and often magical prose; it is filled with the beauty of nature, the mystic powers that lie beneath the surface of every river and behind every tree. Just as Mole is “spellbound” by his first sighting of the river, so too is the reader spellbound by the magical language in the story.

Inga Moore has created artwork that is a tribute to Kenneth Graham’s world, and to the power that his words have had over generations of children. With her soft colors and highly detailed panoramas, Moore has perfectly created the atmosphere set in Graham’s words. Her art leaves one in no doubt that the world is full of beautiful places, and that adventures can and do lie just around the next corner if you know how to look for them.