Sunday, April 24, 2016

It's April-Jump Into a Children's Classic

Last month I jumped on board for the 2016 Jump Into A Book ReadKidsClassics Challenge. Valerie Budayr, children's book author, publisher, co-founder of Multicultural Children's Book Day and creator of jumpintoabook site originated this idea. 

Joining me in this book-ish and fun campaign are a handful of powerhouse bloggers who are excited to share their very own #readkidsclassics picks! Look for their post on readkidsclassics or watch for specific hashtag on twitter #ReadKidsClassics by the bloggers to see what classic book reading fun they have created
Valarie at Jump Into a Book
Jodie at Growing Book By Book
Author Barbara Ann Mojica
Cindy at One Part Sunshine
Lisa at Squishable Baby

My March classic pick was
Besides reading a classic for the sheer enjoyment here are 10 reasons we'll always love classics.
and April's pick "The Wind in the Willows" scored a hit on #10.  
It's a testimonial to "The Wind in the Willows" first published in 1908 that the book has stood the test of time to remain a classic children's read. Since its first publication 50 artists have illustrated it, E.H. Shepard and Arthur Rackham being the best known, with the addition of more recent names that include Michael Foreman, Patrick Benson and John Burningham.
The particular library copy I read was an abridged edition. But it was quite well edited to create a child friendly narration. It would be worth buying this edition just for Inga Moore's exquisite interpretation of Kenneth Grahame's masterpiece story with almost 100 illustrations. This edition has sold more than a million copies worldwide. It must have been a mighty task for Moore to take on illustrations since E.H. Shepard's are the definitive and most recognizable illustrations of "Wind in the Willows". 

Like most classics from pre-television years, "The Wind in the Willows" can be daunting for some children with its book length and Edwardian language, but Moore's pictures generously ­illuminate that forest of words at every opening. She is no minimalist and her illustrations are "wall to wall" with carefully thought out details. With its wit, charm and finesse, and its atmospheric use of colour, her work renders endless exploration. She draws animals with anthropomorphic wizardry. Like Beatrix Potter, she has an easy understanding of anatomy which allows her to give the animals human characteristics (and clothes) without sentimentalizing or ridiculing them. 
A back story I found interesting was "The Wind in the Willows" began as bedtime stories and letters addressed to Grahame's troubled son, a sickly boy known as "Mouse" who possibly inspired the wilful character of Mr Toad and who eventually committed suicide, aged 20, while at Oxford. Indeed, so personal were these stories that Grahame never intended to publish his material. The manuscript was first given to an American publisher, who rejected it. After the publication of "The Wind in the Willows" by Methuen in 1908, it found an unlikely transatlantic fan in US president Theodore Roosevelt who, in 1909, wrote to Grahame to tell him that he had "read it and reread it, and have come to accept the characters as old friends". Elsewhere, the critical response was more mixed, and it was not until AA Milne (Winnie-the-Pooh author ) adapted parts of the book into a popular stage version, Toad of Toad Hall, in 1929, that it became established as the children's classic it is known as today.

"Wind in the Willows" was written at a time in the world that was being shaken by the newly self-confident masses. Many adult reviewers point out that the story is an elegant parable about class struggle, about the dangers of decadent country-house-living in the face of powerful revolutionary forces. But to a child its the rich language that speaks to their heart as they enjoy the adventures unfold of four animal friends: shy amiable Mole, courageous and resolute Ratty (Water Rat), gruff but stalwart Badger and the frivolous,vain Toad. Each character is well developed. Their friendship holds them together with lessons to be learned along the way. Their adventures are set against different backgrounds,the River, the Wildwood and the Town. Readers are made to feel like they've been invited into their homes or to a certain place to sit a spell and chat. 
"The Wind in the Willows" has everything to please children. It is a thrilling adventure, with moments of terror, such as when Mole is lost in the Wild Wood, or when Toad is sentenced to 20 years in prison. But at the same time, the story is also very reassuring. Perhaps this is because the home seems to form a permanent backdrop to all the adventures. The story begins with Mole spring-cleaning, and proceeds through many scenes in front of raging fires in snug burrows, and ends with the regaining of Toad’s ancestral pile. Also reassuring is the feeling which runs through the book that friends will always be there to help you, to put you right and to get you out of trouble. The animal characters – all male – have clear human traits. 
The Mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring-cleaning his little home. First with brooms, then with dusters; then on ladders and steps and chairs, with a brush and a pail of whitewash; till he had dust in his throat and eyes, and splashes of whitewash all over his black fur, and an aching back and weary arms. Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below and around him, penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing.
opening lines Chapter One .
My all time favorite part of the book is when the arrogant, shrewd, self-absorbed but mischievous Toad figures out how to steal a motorcar.

The world has held great heroes,
as history books have showed.
But never a name to go down to fame
compared with that of Toad.
Toad speaking in Chapter 10
Once Toad gets caught up in the power of driving a motorcar there's no stopping him. Toad's plan to escape prison is hilarious dressing up as a washerwoman. But for all his arrogant qualities his three friends stick by him always concerned for his well being.
"Wind in the Willows" makes a great read aloud story for the classroom or a bedtime story.  Check out this link for supplementary enrichment activities. 
or just read the book online for your own enjoyment. 

May reading a classic challenge "James and the Giant Peach" by Roald Dahl


  1. I haven't read this book in YEARS....I think it's time I revisited it and shared it with my kiddies :) I didn't know about the the backstory either-super interesting! Thanks for sharing and being apart of the #ReadKidsClassics Challenge!

  2. Susan this is a great Classics pick. So often Wind and the Willows is over looked by our young generation. It is one of my favorites. Kenneth Grahame and his writings have inspired my own. Thanks so much for sharing and participating with us on #ReadKidsClassics. Can hardly wait for May !!! Love Roald Dahl.