by Kenneth Grahame, first published 1908
“At last over the rim of the waiting earth, the moon lifted with slow majesty till it swung clear of the horizon and rode off, free of moorings…”
What can one say about The Wind in the Willows? It’s hard to believe that at my age, I just read this classic children’s book for the first time, and I’ve never seen the movie either. The experience was indescribable, and I cannot wait to read it again and again. The lyrical nature of the writing alone would be enough to rave about the book. But that’s just the beginning. The immense kindness of the characters, and their friendship, especially Mole and Rat, makes one’s heart melt just thinking of it. The wisdom of Badger, and the annoying arrogance of Toad, all create a world that one never wants to leave. A most perfect children’s book indeed.
Halfway through reading the book, I thought to myself that it was almost like a twentieth-century Odyssey, complete with heroes, verses, and humanity. Imagine my delight when one of the last chapters was entitled The Return of Ulysses. The epic scale of the writing in this book certainly is on a par with the way that the Odyssey must have struck the original readers.
The question that kept coming up for me was at what age a child would appreciate it. I’m not talking about some Disney/edited version of a children’s book. When could children love the original book the way I did at my age? A friend said that it was read to her when she was five, and that ruined it for her forever, as she was bored. But I’m not sure that has to be so. I do think that a read-aloud to a 7 or 8-year-old might work fine. And older children could try and read it themselves, despite the lofty language.
One thing I don’t usually recommend, but for this book, I do– try working with an Audio version for the younger children. A great audio version will add expression to the characters and make it come alive. Here’s a link to a free version, so you can see what I mean. If you buy the book, I recommend the beautifully done centennial anniversary version.
In any case, whatever you choose: read-aloud, giving it, audio book, this is one classic children’s book that is not to be missed.