The 1908 children’s book The Wind in the Willows is one of those fantastic books that belong on the shelf along with The Hobbit, Winnie the Pooh, and Huckleberry Finn. Seven famous illustrators (and countless others) over the years have provided the visual representations of Kenneth Grahame’s famous Mole, Rat, Toad, and Badger including Paul Bransom, Ernest H. Shepard, Arthur Rackham, Tasha Tudor, Michael Hague, Scott McKowen, and Robert Ingpen. Tomorrow IDW Publishing is releasing its own hardcover edition, and we can add David Petersen to the list of great illustrators taking on this classic work.
The Wind in the Willows was a three-year project for Petersen, the artist who brought a new generation the anthropomorphic world of brave mice in his Mouse Guard series. Petersen supplied twenty full-color illustrations and fifty pen and ink illustrations for this new edition of Grahame’s book. Fans of Petersen’s mice will find similar themes here, including an unexpected journey, daring adventure, and humorous tales of the riverbank. Check out a preview below courtesy of IDW Publishing.
You’ll meet Mole, tired of house cleaning and seeking adventures along the riverbank, who finds the accommodating and friendly Rat, and together they join up with the obnoxious but redeemable Toad, and the solitary Badger helps them all in the book’s exciting finale. Content to enjoy the pastoral life of countryside England, but ready when called to protect their friends and show their bravery, these animals provide a guide for kids to be good to others, respect each other, and embrace the differences in others. Friendship, living in a community, leaving each to his or her own activities or mixing in and having adventures together–there is room for everyone in the Wild Wood.
As for the original story, the word choice is magnificent–each sentence of Kenneth Grahame’s narrative is pure, lavish artistry and a joy to read. It’s no wonder President Theodore Roosevelt helped get the original edition published–he’d read the book over and over, and later said he considered the animal characters as old friends.
The plot elements may be a surprise for new readers thinking back to events occurring two turns of the century ago, like stolen sports cars, squatters, disguises, and cunning strategy. Nearly twenty years later we’d meet A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh, and fans of the bear, Eeyore, Tigger, Rabbit, and Piglet’s Hundred Acre Wood will be right at home here.
And a bonus–we get to see David Petersen drawing humans!
Here are the first pages of the story:
Pick up your copy of The Wind in the Willows tomorrow at comic book shops everywhere.