I knew of The Wind in the Willows stories from the family evening readings of my childhood. Even so, all I could really remember is that there was a character called Toad and another called Frog and they hung out together. After reading this book, I know now that we must have been reading a different book altogether by the same author. The Wind in the Willows seems like it was the first of a series of books written by Kenneth Grahame. The main characters are the little creatures found along the banks of a river but personified. They go on adventures, sing songs, and simply live life as I think Grahame thought life ought to be lived. But I had forgotten most about what these stories were about. So I picked up this book recently because I needed a new book to read to my daughter for naptime. As I read, I found that I greatly enjoyed the book, and I look forward to reading it again to future children.
The Wind in the Willows is a children’s book to be sure, but that did not stop me from enjoying the story. Grahame wrote these stories a little after the end of the Industrial Revolution for his son. Their story is a sad one, and I encourage you to look into it further, but from this father-son relationship came a series of delightful stories about little creatures who lived along the shores of the riverbank in a quiet corner of England.
Grahame’s prose is alive. It is beautiful. While some of the sentences can get a little wordy, his descriptions place you right in the story, allowing you to feel and see and hear what you are reading. It really is exemplary of a bygone day of writing. The stories are unhurried, they are funny, they are touching. While I read them for my daughter’s naptime, I looked forward each day to learn a little more of a time that no longer exists in a world of real fantasy written like a score of literary music.
I don’t know if The Wind in the Willows is for everyone, but I like to think that it is. I think you need to love reading and have a good sense of humor, and maybe know a little about turn-of-the-century English life. It is not necessary, but I think you should know a little about the background for Grahame’s writing (for his son and the lost world of pre-industrialized England). You have to love good, beautiful, unhindered prose that is more than the simple stuff of today. Truly, they don’t write ’em like they used to. And perhaps that is why I loved this book so much. No, it’s not my favorite book that has ever been written. But The Wind in the Willows is right for remembering the little things that pass us by, seizing the moment, slowing down for good friends, growing as a person, learning about ourselves, and enjoying a good story about odd little characters that really aren’t so different from us.
Blessings to you and yours,