This book is rather old. My copy is a 1944 Methuen imprint and I am not entirely sure it is still in print anywhere, but I wanted to write about it because it’s charming, and if you’re a fan of Wind in the Willows and you ever come across a copy of this, you should snap it up immediately.
First Whisper of The Wind In The Willows is a slim volume in two parts. The first part is an introductory piece. It’s a bit of a jumble and I’m not entirely sure who penned it, possibly Grahame’s wife. It gives a kind of homage to Grahame himself and a background to the publication of Wind in the Willows. It consists of a melange of different voices, some interviews, some reminiscences, some anecdotes all of which leave you rather wanting. If this were all there was of the book I’d be more than a little disappointed. It was interesting in parts, but it left me rather frustrated and with more questions than I started with. On a positive note, it has made me want to go out and read a biography of Grahame, because his life does sound rather intriguing.
The second part is the real meat of the book and it consists of a series of letters that Grahame wrote to his young son, in which he first sketches out his ideas for the adventures of Mr. Toad. Each letter dives straight in to the next action sequence and it’s all very fast and furious. It condenses most of the book into a handful of pages and I confess that I loved it. One of the problems I’d always had with the actual novel is that it tends to drift rather, much like the river itself, and I find myself nodding between incidents. This does away with all the pontificating and just focuses on the sheer excitement of the adventures of Toad and his friends.
This volume shows where Grahame crossed stuff out and amended things on the go and that makes it all the more lovely.
The second half would make a wonderful short introduction for a primary aged child into the delights of the novel itself and might encourage them to persevere with it if they’re flagging. It is, obviously rather old fashioned, given the time it was written, but it is such a great adventure and all the best bits are here, Toad in prison, and smashing up the train and stealing the car dressed as a washerwoman, and of course, taking back Toad Hall from the weasels. It’s splendid.