Reviews /

The Wind in the Willows

Authored by Kenneth Grahame Abridged by Lou Peacock
Illustrated by Kate Hindley
Published by Nosy Crow

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The Wind in the Willows: The well-loved story of Mole, Ratty, Toad and the other inhabitants of the riverside is given a deft make-over. 

The interlocking stories of Mole making friends and finding a place in the community of the River, and the picaresque account of the self-indulgent Toad’s adventures on the road, in prison and reclaiming his ancestral home are well recounted here.

This way of re-presenting stories that have delighted earlier generations of readers has a long history: Alice in Wonderland has seen revisions, different texts and illustrators, as has Peter Pan and The Wind in the Willows itself. They have all had films or TV programmes retelling their stories, with varying degrees of faithfulness to the original and with varying degrees of success. Here Lou Peacock has not been shy with her efforts to simplify the text – several chapters have been omitted, and incidents are simplified – and has produced a book that stays close to the original but with increased readability. Similarly, Kate Hindley has brought us details we might have missed  with full colour illustrations that show us character, details of the riverbank, a nod to Edwardian costume.

Perhaps it is a personal preference that makes me wish the chapter The  Piper at the Gates of Dawn – where the baby otter is returned to his father in a scene of rich spiritual imagery – had been retained, but there is still much to delight here. The carol singing field mice in Home Sweet Home (note: not Grahame’s ‘Dulce Domum’) are heart-warming; the menace of the Wild Wood is not played down; Toad’s escape from prison is nicely simplified but retains its pace. I can see this version being read in lower KS2 and being treasured at home too, while the illustrations will bring joy to younger readers as well. 

In short, this is a successful revisit of a masterpiece.