The Wind in the Willows is a children's novel by Kenneth Grahame. It was first published in 1908 and is one of the most beloved novels in Great Britain, according to various surveys. The novel has been adapted for the stage, film, radio, and television numerous times.
The Wind in the Willows was originally published as a plain text book without illustrations. However, illustrated editions of the book began to appear less than a decade after it was first published, including editions featuring illustrations by Paul Branson (1913), E.H. Shepard (1931) and by Arthur Rackham (1940), among others.
The latest illustrated edition of The Wind in the Willows is published by IDW Publishing. The illustrator is David Petersen, the award-winning creator of the comic book series, Mouse Guard. Petersen reportedly worked on this project for over three years, and the book contains over 60 of his illustrations, including 20 full-color plates.
I read part of this novel a long, long time ago, and what I remember from it I probably got from the Walt Disney film, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. Half of this 1949 animated film was an adaption of The Wind in the Willows. The other half of the film was based on the unrelated Washington Irving short story, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” (first published in 1820).
The Wind of the Willows focuses on four anthropomorphic animals that live in a pastoral version of Edwardian England. They are Badger, Mole, Rat, and Toad of Toad Hall. Theirs is an entrancing, lyrical world of gurgling rivers and whispering reeds where the friends can enjoy the simplest pleasures and natural wonders that life offers. Their adventurers will test the miracle of loyalty and friendship in a story that has likely set the standard for other animal-themed novels.
THE LOWDOWN: It is clear that David Petersen's illustrative work for The Wind in the Willows is a labor of love. Heck, it is obvious as soon as you crack this book open and see Petersen's spot illustrations of Toad and Rat. The gorgeous color plates of Mole and Rat's boating excursion make me want to stare at them all day. The first look at “Toad Hall” as a black and white illustration is quite a treat. The color plate of Rat and Mole (Chapter Three “The Wild Wood”) would sell someone on buying this book.
As strong as the illustrations are to start this book, the ones that illustrate the last chapters of the book don't let up. Petersen offers some powerful art to conclude The Wind in the Willows, and that wraparound color illustration that is this book's front and back cover will wrap around your reading and buying lists.
I had not heard about this project until I saw it in a Diamond Distributors list. I was shocked when IDW sent me a copy-for-review. I was like, “Damn, I wish all the books I got from comic book publishers were as fine as this here The Wind in the Willows.”
I READS YOU RECOMMENDS: There are three target audiences for IDW's new, illustrated edition of The Wind in the Willows. They are fans of writer-artist David Petersen's Mouse Guard; fans of The Wind in the Willows; and collectors of IDW's spectacular line of art books, illustrated publications, and archival editions.