Review: The Wind In The Willows by Kenneth Grahame. Illustrated by Grahame Baker-Smith.
‘…there is nothing – absolutely nothing half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.’
So begins the meeting between Mole and the Water Rat and one of the most famous scenes in children’s literature. Kenneth Grahame captured something idyllic and many people assume the book is a bit of light-hearted escapism. However, there is a threat to Ratty and Mole’s world. The weasels from the wild woods are encroaching on the Riverbank and unless Ratty and Mole can get the eccentric landowner to behave the days of messing about in boats may be lost for good.
And so the other best-known part of the story is introduced – Mr Toad.
Mr Toad’s escapades and misadventures with caravans and race cars are so well known that even people who have never touched a copy of the original text can describe them. They have been played out on stage and on television and on the big screen and in school halls up and down the country. Everyone believes they know the story even if they have never read the book – and yet Kenneth Grahame’s prose is so beautiful, so effortlessly descriptive and gentle in its rhythm – that it is a book everybody deserves to read.
Many talented illustrators have produced an edition of the story, most notably Arthur Rackham, but I jumped up and down in excitement when I heard about this edition. Grahame Baker-Smith is a Kate Greenaway Medal-winning illustrator and his work captures the magic and mystery in the everyday. This comes into its own in illustrations of the Wild Woods and the River itself.
There are illustrations in different styles – full-page colour illustrations which look almost like film concept art in their energy and sense of movement and smaller, sepia and similarly muted colour pictures at the head of or to the side of the text. The design is glorious too, with the ripples and willow branches of the end pages repeating at the chapter headings.
Both the high quality of the illustration and the way this has been presented make it an edition to treasure. A beautiful copy of a classic which would make a beautiful present this holiday season.
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame and Grahame Baker-Smith, published by Templar Books, is available now.
Thanks to Templar Books and Antonia Wilkinson PR for my copy of the book.