What better day to talk about The Wind in the Willows, one of my favorite children's classics? Although I have to admit that I have watched the 1949 Disney animated adaptation many more times than I have read the actual book. That cartoon version was oddly paired with the story of Ichabod Crane, voiced by Bing Crosby (who else?) and was a beloved favorite of my childhood.
On March 8th, we celebrate the birthday of Kenneth Grahame, the author of this eternally resonating tale of Toad and his faithful friends, Ratty, Mole and Badger. They live in the bucolic English countryside surrounding Toad Hall, a stately manor and the chief residence of Toad himself. Toad is an adventurer, and a not-very-responsible one at that. He becomes obsessed with his latest crazes, such as boating or romping about the countryside in a gypsy caravan. So his friends know they are in for trouble when Toad sees a motorcar for the very first time. Although they try to contain his exuberance by locking him in his room, he escapes out the window and after stealing a motorcar, ends up in jail.
But this is only a minor setback to brave Toad, who disguises himself as a washerwoman and once again escapes his prison. After many adventures on the lam, Toad returns to his friends at Toad Hall full of remorse and promises to change. He arrives just in time to help Ratty, Mole and Badger save Toad Hall from a gang of no-good weasels that have taken up residence. In the end, all is set right, and Toad swears that he has given up his old, irresponsible ways. But wait, what is that little spark in his eye?
Published in 1908 and based on bedtime stories that Grahame would tell his son, Wind in the Willows has endured on the bookshelves of discerning children everywhere for over a century.
Now there's a sequel! Return to the Willows, written by Jacqueline Kelly and illustrated by Clint Young, was published in 2012.
Toad, Mole, Ratty and Badger are back in a riveting tale of bravery, bravado and hot-air ballooning! Or so it says on the book jacket. I have not read it yet, so I cannot comment further, but it looks great!
Best wishes for more exciting adventures, Mr. Toad!
Check out the artwork for Return to the Willows here, or read an excerpt.