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Friday, November 16, 2012

The Wind in the Willows

A broad glistening muzzle showed itself above the edge of the bank, and the Otter hauled himself out and shook the water from his coat. “Greedy beggars!” he observed, making for the provender. “Why didn’t you invite me, Ratty?” “This was an impromptu affair,” explained the Rat. “By the way, my friend Mr Mole.” “Proud, I’m sure,” said the Otter, and the two animals were friends forthwith.

There are many versions of The Wind in the Willows around. Novel sized paperbacks, various chapters in children’s classic compilations and audio versions by great actors, namely Alan Bennett and Richard Briers. Just recently, yet another one, illustrated by David Roberts in an art deco-y way was released. And Julian Fellowes, of Downton Abbey is penning a musical version for the stage, to be seen in the West End in the new year. Since its publication in 1908, it has never been out of print.

I found this one  on Amazon last week. It’s a steal at £9.97; not only does it include every chapter (many versions of this book skip a few), it has beautiful, lush illustrations by Robert Ingpen and a little biography of the author, Kenneth Grahame. It
was published to celebrate the 100th birthday of the books first release.

In my head Kenneth Williams was always the author of this classic, he of Carry On fame. I don’t know why I thought that, maybe he voiced a character in a BBC production and I associated his name with the book? I just thought the guy was multi-talented; a great actor and a brilliant writer. Anyway, I was wrong. Kenneth Grahame was not an actor, he was a banker. Born in Scotland, his mother died when he was five and he was then sent to be raised by his grandmother by a river bank in Berkshire. I’m thinking it had to have been a happy(but maybe solitary?) childhood to have resulted in this treasure.

The main reason I got this one though was because, a few months ago my eldest moved into his own bedroom. At first delighted to have some space (he had previously shared with two siblings), he got lonely. One rare evening, when I wasn’t in demand in the other bedroom, we looked together though an old christening present, a collection of children’s stories. Included were the chapters The River Bank and The Open Road from The Wind in the Willows. We chuckled and chuckled. “Toad is such a show off,” He smiled, “Is there more?” But there wasn’t.

I needed no more encouragement and got online as soon as he went to school the next day to see what I could find. And am so happy with the result. (I did try to scan pictures onto this blog, they are so lovely, but failed I'm afraid. It could'nt be that difficult, I know, but is at the moment, beyond me.)

 So now, to even things up under the tree next month, I have to find two more interesting, biggish sized, hardcover books for his brothers. Oh dear, what a chore.

Who am I kidding, I know exactly what books to choose. I just needed an excuse to buy them.

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