Monday, 2 January 2012

The Wind in the Willows

'The Mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring-cleaning his little home'.

This is the well known opening line from Kenneth Grahame's 'The Wind in the Willows'. First published in 1908 it is now a much loved children's classic. In my last blog post I promised to tell you more about the book that is wonderfully illustrated by Inga Moore.

The book begins with the Mole painting his ceiling. After a while he grows tired and throws down his brush. There is a hint of spring in the air so he scrambles up his dark tunnel and out into the fresh spring air. Without further thought the Mole heads off into the countryside. Eventually he reaches a meandering river and beside it sits a snug little dwelling-place.

This is the home of the Water Rat and the two animals quickly become friends and enjoy a happy summer together fishing and having adventures up and down the riverbank. One of their acquaintances is Mr Toad (we'll see more of him later!)

As days grow shorter and winter approaches the Mole grows restless and foolishly ventures alone into the Wild Wood. His mission is to find the home of the much respected but elusive Mr Badger. But he soon becomes lost and very frightened and is eventually rescued by his friend the Rat.

The two head for home but the snow falls thicker and faster and it is soon evident that they have lost their way. Suddenly the Mole stumbles on an object that is protruding from the snow. It is a door scraper and of course where there's a door scraper there must be door. So the two exhausted animals start to scrape away the snow and soon find a bell-pull.

After ringing the bell they wait patiently and eventually hear distant footsteps from inside. The door slowly opens and there stands Mr Badger.

He invites them inside, bathes the cut on the Mole's leg, gives them a hearty meal and then gives them both a cosy bed for the night.

The following morning the friends find two hungry hedgehogs sitting at the table eating bowls of porridge given to them by the kindly Badger.

With Christmas approaching it is time to return to the Riverbank. They pass through snowy villages and cross freezing fields.

On the way the Mole calls at his old home and although a humble dwelling they spend some time there and enjoy Christmas carol singing in the company of little field mice.

The story starts quite gently but then it continues apace with lots of adventures for the Riverbank folk. Mr Toad is the centre of everyone's attention.

He steals a car, drives it recklessly and is caught by the police. To escape from prison he dresses as a washer-woman and is again pursued by the police. And so the Toad's adventures continue.

Whilst the foolish animal has been away his grand house 'Toad Hall' has been taken over by weasels, stoats and ferrets from the Wild Wood.

It is thought the Toad might have lost his house for ever but with Mr Badger's expert knowledge of underground tunnels the four friends are able to enter the house undetected and they pounce upon the unsuspecting weasels who are holding a party.

The mighty Badger with whiskers bristling waves his great cudgel and rushes towards the ferrets at the dining table. With noisy whoops and shrieks the Rat, the Mole and Mr Toad join the attack and the terrified ferrets make their escape. In five minutes the room is cleared and through the broken window panes the shrieks of the escaping intruders can be clearly heard.

At long last the friends can dine with the now (hopefully) reformed Mr Toad, who is happy to be back in his much loved ancestral home.

If you are familiar with 'The Wind in the Willows' you will know that I have only covered a small part of this much loved story. My main aim of this post was was to show you some of Inga Moore's superbly evocative illustrations.

This is a large book measuring 29cm x 21cm. In full colour throughout there are almost 100 illustrations on the 182 pages. It is essentially a book for children but will appeal to all ages. I should point out that the original text by Grahame has been abridged in places to allow for the many illustrations.

A children's classic beautifully illustrated by Inga Moore.