My mom gave me a nicely illustrated edition of The Wind in the Willows a few years ago, and after our success with My Father's Dragon, it seemed a good time to try this classic English adventure story. My kids did enjoy it, though they weren't as enthusiastic about it as they were with Charlotte's Web or Three Tales of My Father's Dragon. I think some of the older British vocabulary and humor were beyond them (at 5 1/2 and 2 1/2), though I did try to explain as much as possible. The pictures were beautiful, and after reading How the Heather Looks, I couldn't help wondering if they actually depicted the section of the Thames where Kenneth Grahame took his inspiration for the setting of The Wind in the Willows and Earnest H. Shepard did the illustrations for earlier editions. (Inga Moore illustrated the edition I have, and her lush full-color illustrations, some even two-page illustrations, made it much more engaging for my children than Shepard's ink drawings, as classic as they may be.) Maybe someday I will travel in England and see for myself!
I think we will revisit this classic again in a few years when we will be able to have more fruitful discussions on topics such as friendship, coveting, selfishness, stealing, and making wise/foolish choices. I did find it a little unsettling that everything ends well for Mr. Toad in spite of all the bad decisions he makes. But Curious George puts me in the same quandary, and I still read them to my kids because they are fun and imaginative. The Wind in the Willows is also fun and imaginative, and the varied characters of each animal are endearing, even Mr. Toad and his mischief. I suppose it can be an illustration that the Lord causes the sun to shine upon both the just and the unjust as well as an example of mercy and grace in the sense of not receiving the justice that is due for one's actions. Stories that don't necessarily support one's values need not necessarily be avoided, for they can provide many fruitful discussions.