The Amazon Vine Programme sent me The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame and David Roberts to review, in exchange for my honest opinion. Here it is.
I’ve read The Wind in the Willows several times before in my life, and have also seen it adapted in numerous ways, many of which I have preferred to the original text. There is something mournfully elegiac about the text that always slightly disturbs me, no matter how many times I read it. There are undoubtedly some fabulous moments in the book. The first few chapters are a delight, the episodes with Toad are funny, albeit in a slightly heartbreaking way, but the end always makes me cry, no matter how old I get.
I had to have this copy when it was offered to me though, because of the amazing illustrations by David Roberts, and this is why this particular version of the book will be a hit, I am sure. It is a chunky, slightly bigger than average paperback, but with the production quality of a glossy picture book. There are illustrations on every page, whether it be patterns around the chapter headings, or tiny pictures in the margins or along the tops and bottom of the pages, as well as full single and double page colour spreads. It is absolutely chock full of brilliant, brilliant pictures.
The pictures are not the normal, pastel toned, slightly water colour style faded illustrations of most versions of the book either. These illustrations are as robust as the book itself, chunky, bright, wonderful pictures with bags and bags of detail. I love the slightly surreal, cartoonish quality. I think Mole’s balaclava is a stroke of genius. I love Toad’s hugely long arms and legs. I also love the fact that some of the single and double page spreads are washed in a particular hue. The steam train illustration for example, is in a wonderful palette of greens. I’d love it as a poster.
It would make a terrific gift, either as a christening gift for someone wanting to start a child out with all the best books to grow up with, or as a lushly rewarding Christmas present.
Be aware that the text is the original 1908 text, and is therefore as old fashioned and as full of complicated words as you would imagine. Not only that but in order to give the book the look and feel the OUP were going for they have had to make the font size rather small and the text is not exactly spread out on the pages. It is not an easy read, but it would be a very rewarding one.
I have been dipping in and out of it all day, re-reading my favourite passages, savouring the beauty of the illustrations, and hoping that my son might be drawn to try it, because of the enjoyment he has been getting out of the pictures I have shared with him so far.