Kenneth Grahame – The Wind in the Willows

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An odd book, but not one I’m particularly fond of, The Wind in The Willows is a mix of Edwardian rapture at frolicking in the splendors of nature, the high-church volksgeist mysticism that was in vogue at the time and classic anthropomorphic children’s moral tales. It does sort of hang together, and there are many memorable quotes and characters, but reading it undigested makes me feel uneasy, like there’s an unpleasant aftertaste I can’t quite place.

The 1985 Cosgrove Hall adaptation is how I first knew the story, and it’s still easily my favourite version. It apparently features the work of a young John Squire as a background artist too, and is available on youtube in its entirety  (for now)

 

Beatrix Potter – The Tale of Peter Rabbit

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116 years before the combination of uncanny valley CGI and the voice of James Corden, a minor Childrens’ publisher put out a small run of picture books about a naughty rabbit. This book immediately lifted its 32-year-old author out of obscurity and went on to be one of the best-sellers of all time.

Before I had kids I found Beatrix Potter’s work to all be a bit too twee and chintsy, too many moral lessons with sweet illustrations, not nearly enough weirdness. These days I’ve come round to it more, it’s a world of its own which is just fine on its own terms.

The History Chicks have a very good podcast talking about the life of Potter, the book is obviously still available everywhere, most of the adaptations are insufferable, but this one is ok, and features a nice framing device with Potter writing the book.

 

L. Frank Baum – The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

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I’ve somehow owned a copy of this book since childhood but hadn’t thought to read it until now. It’s weird, and not always in a fun way. I was reminded most of the Grimm fairly tales, with their meandering, unstructured, unresolved plots, confused morals and sudden lurches into violence. The prose itself is a disconcerting mix of the sentimental Victorian style and a sort of pompous late-Twain-esque highfalutin moral fable. Somehow this became one of the best-selling children’s book series of all time and I’m not sure how or why.

L. Frank Baum – The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
L. Frank Baum – The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Full text at Project Gutenberg)
L. Frank Baum – The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Dramatic reading at Librivox)