I’ve never been one of those people who can identify one single “favorite book.” Though I usually answer such a question by rattling off a list of the authors I enjoy the most, I’m starting to think that I do have a number-one novel after all.
Ever since I was a child, I’ve been deeply in love with The Wind in the Willows. It’s such a beautifully told story, one that immerses me in a cozy (if occasionally weasel-filled) world that I want to visit over and over again. Kenneth Grahame’s little story about friendship and the relationship between man (or rodent) and nature’s “sublime” has comforted me again and again over the years.
Recently, I decided that I needed to have a copy of my own on hand–in case of an emergency, as the case may be–so I thought I’d give the Barnes & Noble Collectibles Edition version a try.
Some of the more “grown-up” Collectible Editions border on the excessively ornate side for me, but I find all of their “children’s” books to be absolutely beautiful. The cover features sea-green silhouettes of Rat and Mole in their boat, surrounded by lovely silver accents.
Illustrating an edition of The Wind in the Willows in this day and age must be an impossible task–after all, even Arthur Rackham himself depicted Toad and Badger and the Wild Wood at one point. The small black and white line drawings that accompany each chapter are the real artistic stars of this Wind in the Willows, in my opinion.
Can you believe that Wind in the Willows was published in 1908–predating even The Hobbit (yet another favorite early children’s book of mine that also sadly lacks any female protagonists) by decades? The Pevensie siblings wouldn’t go through the wardrobe into Narnia until the 50s, and even the Hundred-Acre Wood didn’t come into existence until after Wind in the Willows. (A.A. Milne was himself very fond of Grahame’s story, and even wrote a play about it.) Actually, Grahame’s closest contemporary was probably my illustration idol Beatrix Potter, who first introduced Peter Rabbit in 1902 and stayed active until around 1930.
As someone with a passion for writing children’s literature, the book that enchanted me as a kid has now taken on new meaning: it’s part of a greater history of writing for children that led the way for other twentieth-century classics.
(Plus, it also gave Pink Floyd an album title, so, you know.)