Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame

I really don't feel as if I have too much to say regarding my reading of The Wind in the Willows which I read as part of the Reading to Know Book Club. Stephanie will be here towards the end of the week sharing her thoughts and kicking off a discussion. I'm here to mumble about something in the meantime.

This is my third or fourth reading of The Wind in the Willows. I read it for the first time in high school. (Hey! Look! I did get to a classic in high school!) Or maybe it was college. At any rate, whenever it was that I first read it I fell in love with the characters of Moley, Ratty, Mr. Badger and Mr. Toad of Toad Hall. For many years I have planned to read this aloud to my kids. Alas, this was not the year.

I sat down with the intent to read this book with the bookworms (age 6 and 4) a few weeks back and it quickly became apparently that the vocabulary put this story beyond their reach. Now, I'm a proponent of expanding children's vocabulary and I'm afraid we dumb down a great many books that they could totally handle if we'd let them try reading them for themselves. (Adapted and abridged Anne of Green Gables!?! What a waste of paper!!!) I suppose I could have applied my "children can handle bigger words than we give them credit for" logic to The Wind in the Willows but with passages such as the following, I wasn't convinced that it wasn't pushing it a bit much:

"Such a rich chapter it had been, when one came to look back on it all! With illustrations so numerous and so very highly coloured! The pageant of the river bank had marched steadily along, unfolding itself in scene-pictures that succeeded each other in stately procession. Purple loose-strife arrived early, shaking luxuriant tangled locks along the edge of the mirror whence its own face laughed back at it. Willow-herb tender and wistful, like a pink sunset cloud, was not slow to follow. Comfrey, the purple hand-in-hand with the white, crept forth to take its place in the line; and at last one morning the diffident and delaying dog-rose stepping delicately no the stage, and one knew, as if string-music had announced it in stately chords that strayed into a gavotte, that June was at least here."

Any one of those words by itself wouldn't have been such a roadblock to us but all jumbled together it is a bit much for youngsters, in my opinion. Yes, I could have made them plough on but their eyes were glazing over in Chapter 1 and I don't want to ruin the story for them in the future. I'd rather set it aside and let them at it when they are ready to handle it, instead of make them think it's boring when it isn't. And so I opted just to read it to myself and I enjoyed it very much.

As it is a familiar classic (I should think to almost everyone) I'll refrain from describing it. Instead I'll close with some silly quizzes which I periodically like to take for no very good reason whatsoever.

Which Wind in the Willows character are you?

this quiz was made by Auntie Krizu

I'm not sure what I think of that since I liked Moley least of everyone this read aloud. I liked Badger best!

Did you read it/have your children read it/read it aloud to your children? Here's a quiz consisting of 15 questions to see how well everyone was paying attention!

And lastly, here is a picture of some people performing a musical version of The Wind in the Willows which I think looks rather creepy.

I'll leave it at that for today.


Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

I made the mistake of reading it aloud--yes, all of it--to my girls when they were very, very, very young. None of us really enjoyed it, I'm sure, though I did make a mental note to revisit it again (it was my first time to read it) when the girls were older. Alas, this was not the year. :(

Annette Whipple said...

Well, the vocab makes me glad that we didn't find the unabridged version, though we gave up on the dramatization. Meghan inquires about every word she doesn't know, and sometimes Evan does too.

You may not be surprised...I was also Moley. :)

I have never read it...guess I need to!

B said...

Apparently, I'm Badger: "a grumpy old sod with a heart of gold."

Only marginally on topic, the Mr Toad ride at Disneyland is a blast. Last time we were there, we rode it more than I care to admit. Can't wait for the baby to experience it :)

Queen of Carrots said...

I read it to Duchess and Deux this year--it was a school literature assignment, so we took it slowly, over three months. It took them a bit to get into, but they really relished it as time went on. Toad is such a scream. The twins eavesdropped occasionally, but definitely weren't up to following the whole thing.

Beckie B. said...

This was a read aloud for my 3 children when they were little. They are now 23, 22, and 20 and they still remind me of the "agony" that was this book. Oh well, maybe it should be reserved for older children.

Taia said...

My children enjoy the Disney book "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride" which is based on this. It's not literature but it is great fun.

Barbara H. said...

I ended up not getting to this one. Maybe some day! I definitely agree that it would be better to wait til the kids can enjoy rather than to force it when they're younger. I agree, too, that I'd rather read "the real thing" when they can handle it rather than a "dumbed down" version.

Heather VanTimmeren said...

Well, I turned out to be Badger. I don't think I'm a grumpy old sod, but I do like to be alone (not that it happens too much anymore!)

I read this to my kids 3 1/2 years ago when they were 5 1/2 & 2 1/2 (review here: It took a little more perseverance than others, but I remember that they still asked me to read more, pleeeaaase.

I think we will revisit it sometime soon. I can't decide if I'd prefer it as a summer or winter read-aloud.

Lisa Spence said...

I've attempted The Wind in the Willows a couple of times but couldn't get very far for whatever reason. Maybe I need to try again?

RAnn said...

If that paragraph is a normal one in the book I know why I never read it.

Alison said...

Two books you might enjoy with a similar feel, but better for younger kids are Animal Tales by Lucy Kinkaid and Adventures in the Big Thicket by Ken Gire. I think both are out of print. My mom read them to all of us kids. M and I just started reading Animal Tales recently. It is fun to introduce your kids to books you enjoyed when you were little. :)

Diary of an Autodidact said...

My kids really loved this, particularly the older (10, 8, and 7), but my 5 year old also hung with it pretty well. The 2 year old isn't very good at listening to anything yet.

I am definitely mole. Most of the time. Although I aspire to be Ratty.

Here are my thoughts:

BerlinerinPoet said...

I love this book, even though I wasn't able to get to it. I am Ratty by the way. I love the river. What it doesn't have isn't worth having. Sort of non-descriptive but ok.

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