What is the most important location to find when moving to a new area? The library, of course! The kids and I have already made several trips to the library nearest us. It’s a tiny little thing, not the newest building, but that kind of lends to the overall charm. The kids love the basket of stuffed animals that live there (Em wanted to know if she could ‘check them out’ like books), and I’ve found plenty of books on insects for our first unit study of the school year. But one treasure we’ve all enjoyed together is an abridged version of Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows.
I don’t know if I ever read/listened to this as a child. I did watch the claymation show, but disliked the Disney cartoon. So while I was somewhat familiar with the story, E & E and I loved discovering a new classic together.
Home is a strong theme in the story. Mole longs to return to his home after a long absence; Rat longs to discover adventure away from his home; Badger’s home is as stalwart as its inhabitant, and Toad must win back his home after a self-inflicted absence, much like he must choose to regain his senses after taking leave of them. It reminds me of how much our homes or cherished places become like extensions of ourselves.
Likewise, the four animals demonstrate different aspects of friendship. The strong treatment Toad receives at the hands of his friends (in one instance, being locked up in his own room) sparked a few conversations on when friendship has to make hard choices. Toad’s behavior put himself and others in danger, driving his friends to intervene. However, Toad must learn the hard way, on his own, as we often do; and it’s often the most dramatic character arc that teaches us the most.
The Wind in the Willows was a lovely read-aloud novel. Even the abridged version had plenty of flair and character, I thought. We’ll have to read the abridged version some day and compare the depth of language. I was struck by how well it portrayed some difficult and complex emotions and situations. But then, that’s the mark of the good children’s book, isn’t it-illustrating themes that we adults find hard to explain, in ways that children get without dumbing them down.
Have you read this book? When was the last time you were surprised by the depth of a story?