Book Review: The Wind in the Willows

Rating: ★★★★★

A lonely mole, exasperated with Spring cleaning, abandons his home and goes for a long jaunt ending at a river, where he meets a friendly river rat.  The rat invites him to an extended stay at his home, introducing him to all the local animals: the lively otter, stalwart badger, and reckless toad.  Thus follow some of the most implausible and wonderful adventures ever to enthrall a young reader.  The story delights with what C.S. Lewis calls “scandalous escapism,” yet within the animals’ adventures, dangers, and reveries, if you are looking for them, you will find timeless moral qualities: the value of friendship, the beauty of unblinking courage, and the consequences of foolishness.  It really should not be missed.

Parents will need to use discernment when considering whether to read chapter 7, in which Rat and Mole encounter and worship a “wood-god” who resembles the mythical Pan.  This chapter does provide a calming respite from Toad’s breakneck adventures, but some parents may choose to skip this chapter until their children can discern the difference between this creature and the God of their own faith.  In addition, parents may want to discuss a passing reference in chapter 10 to a gypsy (Roma) man as one accustomed to horse-stealing.  This stereotype of Roma, so prevalent in the past century and continuing into the present, has caused much persecution for this people.

Kenneth Grahame’s brilliant prose is full of unusual and enriching words, making it excellent as a read-aloud for early readers, and good as a read-alone for confident readers.  Precocious pre-readers will also be able to enjoy the story, although they will miss many of its complexities.

There are a great number of illustrated versions of the book, many of them abridged.  Michael Hague’s unabridged version depicts the story in exuberant oil paintings, with period costumes and architecture basically consistent with the book’s original publication in 1908.  There are three free audio versions of this book available at

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Publication Information: Grahame, Kenneth. Wind in the Willows, The. Hague, Michael (Illustrator). Henry Holt. 2003. ISBN: 0805072373.
Categories: 5 Stars, Age 08-12, Amblesideonline, Books Children Love, Books That Build Character,, Honey For a Child's Heart, NEH Summertime Favorites, What Stories Does My Son Need, World Books That Show
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Posted on June 14, 2010

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