We all know Kenneth Grahame’s delightful tale The Wind in the Willows, especially if we have gone on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at Disneyland, but few of us have had the pleasure of reading William Horwood’s sequel, The Willows in Winter. The Mole spends the winter in his home under the fallen oak tree with his Nephew who irritates him by merely existing. Worse, his Nephew wants to talk when Mole would rather be alone.
It is easy to identify with the Mole in his quest for privacy, but it is equally effortless to come to love his charming, albeit clumsy, Nephew. The Mole cannot turn out his “unwelcome guest” into the Wild Wood in the midst of a winter storm, but he frets continually at the prospect of bearing the burden of his company through the winter months.
When Otter’s son Portly shows up at the door, bedraggled and half-frozen, the Mole embarks upon a great adventure. He braves the storm and heads toward Rat’s house to find out who needs help and why. This journey through dark woods and into treacherous waters reveals the depth of the Mole’s courage, though he modestly denies that he is any kind of hero. And then the ice of the river cracks beneath his weight, and the Mole is swept away.
The Rat, Mr. Toad and all the familiar creatures appear in this tale as old friends viewed in a new light. Highly recommended reading for adults and children alike.