Kenneth Grahame's classic tale was first published in 1908, and despite scant critical acclaim, it met with instant popularity. Its greatest strength lay in its animal characterisations, and children and adults alike fell in love with the timid Mole, the friendly Water Rat, the imperious Badger, the mischievous Toad, and a host of other unforgettable creatures.
The quiet life they lead on the banks of the Thames is interspersed with adventures, normally instigated by the Toad, who has a propensity for trouble, and whose sudden and all-consuming passion for motor cars eventually results in his being kept 'a helpless prisoner in the remotest dungeon of the best-guarded keep of the stoutest castle in all the length and breadth of Merry England'. His escape dressed as a washerwoman and his journey home to Toad Hall are among the most familar and best-loved escapades in children's literature.
Over the years, the animals' adventures on the river, in the Wild Wood and around the lovingly described English countryside - have been brought to life by many artists, including E. H. Sheperd, who illustrated the original edition, and Arthur Rackham. Now, to celebrate the centenary of its first publication, this magnificent new edition brings the story to life with more than 70 new illustrations by award-winning artist Robert Ingpen, so fans of all ages can relive or enjoy for the first time this heart-warming tale of friendship.
Books for Keeps, January 2009
"The vexed question of illustrating The Wind in the Willows - a hundred years old last year - was touched on in the 'Classics in Short' column in BfK 152. Robert Ingpen, illustrator of this edition, has devoted considerable artistry to his text. And 'devoted' is the word, for he has taken Grahame's wish to heart - 'I love these little people. Be kind to them' - and every brush-stroke of his beautifully-conceived illustrations is a tribute to what is going on in the story. There are grand double-page panoramic spreads at the start of each chapter (the curving stream for 'The River Bank', the cosy interior of 'Dulce Domum'), there are full-page plates (Turner's Venice looms up, entirely appropriately, in 'The Gates of Dawn') and there are a host of vignettes in the text which perfectly catch the atmosphere of the story as it progresses. And it is the whole story too, unlike its only competitor in terms of artistry - Inga Moore's version for Walker Books - which ornaments an abridged text. It makes for a hefty volume, which may need a lectern for bed-time reading, but I suppose that that's what 'global publishing' does for you."
Robert Ingpen and the Children's Classics series
Read our profile of award-winning artist Robert Ingpen
View Robert Ingpen's works for sale at Melaleuca Galleries
Read a feature on Robert Ingpen at theage.com.au