The 25 best children’s books, according to The Telegraph

  1. Treasure Island
    The story grew out of a map that led to imaginary treasure, devised during a holiday in Scotland by Stevenson and his nephew. The tale is told by an adventurous boy, Jim Hawkins, who gets hold of a treasure map and sets off with an adult crew in search of the buried treasure. Among the crew, however, is the treacherous Long John Silver who is determined to keep the treasure for himself. Stevenson’s first full-length work of fiction brought him immediate fame and continues to captivate readers of all ages.
  2. The Tale of Peter Rabbit
    The Tale of Peter Rabbit was first published by Frederick Warne in 1902 and endures as Beatrix Potter’s most popular and well-loved tale. It tells the story of a very mischievous rabbit and the trouble he encounters in Mr McGregor’s vegetable garden!
  3. The Wind in the Willows
    Far from fading with time, Kenneth Grahame‘s classic tale of fantasy has attracted a growing audience in each generation. Rat, Mole, Badger and the preposterous Mr Toad, have brought delight to many through the years with their odd adventures on and by the river, and at the imposing residence of Toad Hall.
    Read our review of The Wind in the Willows
  4. The Railway Children
    When Father goes away with two strangers one evening, the lives of Roberta, Peter and Phyllis are shattered. They and their mother have to move from their comfortable London home to go and live in a simple country cottage, where Mother writes books to make ends meet. However, they soon come to love the railway that runs near their cottage, and they make a habit of waving to the Old Gentleman who rides on it. They befriend the porter, Perks, and through him learn railway lore and much else. They have many adventures, and when they save a train from disaster, they are helped by the Old Gentleman to solve the mystery of their father’s disappearance.
  5. Peter Pan
    It was Friday night. Mr and Mrs Darling were dining out. Nana had been tied up in the backyard. The poor dog was barking, for she could smell danger. And she was right – this was the night that Peter Pan would take the Darling children on the most breath-taking adventure of their lives, to a place called Neverland, a strange country where the lost boys live and never grow up, a land with mermaids, fairies and pirates – and of course the terrible, evil, Captain Hook. Peter Pan is undoubtedly one of the most famous and best-loved stories for children, an unforgettable, magical fantasy which has been enjoyed by generations.
  6. Winnie-the-Pooh
    AA Milne‘s first stories about Winnie-the-Pooh, the most famous bear in the world, were published eighty years ago. This beautiful anniversary edition of “Winnie-the-Pooh” celebrates the enduring popularity of Pooh and his Forest friends. Discover what happens when Pooh goes visiting and Piglet meets a Heffalump, not forgetting when Eeyore loses his tail and Pooh finds one!
  7. Swallows and Amazons
    Swallows and Amazons is the wholesome story of four young children, John, Susan, Titty and Roger, who set out in their boat (the Swallow of the title) to an island of adventure. All seems well until they encounter their enemy. At first they are angry at the invasion of their peaceful haven by these Amazon pirates, Nancy and Peggy, who claim ownership of the land. But in time a truce is called and the Swallows and Amazons become firm friends. Camping under open skies, swimming in clear water, fishing, exploring and making discoveries is the stuff of dreams which serves to make this so charming a tale. The author manages to capture the innocence of a time when all this was real and possible. Swallows and Amazons will transport children to a fantastical place where they can play safely and roam freely, without an adult in sight.
  8. Babar
    “If you love elephants, you will love Babar and Celeste,” wrote AA Milne. “And if you have never loved elephants, you will love them now.”
  9. The Faraway Tree
    When Joe, Beth and Frannie move to a new home, an Enchanted Wood is on their doorstep. And when they discover the Faraway Tree, that is the beginning of many magical adventures! Join them and their friends Moonface, Saucepan Man and Silky the fairy as they discover which new land is at the top of the Faraway Tree. Will it be the Land of Spells, the Land of Treats, or the Land of Do-As-You-Please? There’ll be adventures waiting for them, whatever happens; funny, magical adventures that will delight children again and again.
  10. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
    The Narnia Chronicles, first published in 1950, have been and remain some of the most enduringly popular ever published. The best known, the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, has been translated into 29 languages. Lucy steps into the Professor’s wardrobe – but steps out again into a snowy forest. She’s stumbled upon the magical world of Narnia, a land of unicorns, centaurs, fauns and the wicked White Witch, who terrorises all. Lucy soon realises that Narnia, and in particular Aslan, the great Lion, needs her help if the county’s creatures are ever going to be free again.
    Read our review of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
  11. The Lord of the Rings
    Not just revolutionary because it was groundbreaking, The Lord of the Rings is timeless because it’s the product of a truly top-shelf mind. JRR Tolkien was a distinguished linguist and Oxford scholar of dead languages, with strong ideas about the importance of myth and story and a deep appreciation of nature. His epic, 10 years in the making, recounts the Great War of the Ring and the closing of Middle-Earth’s Third Age, a time when magic begins to fade from the world and men rise to dominance.
    Read our review of The Lord of the Rings
  12. The Cat in the Hat
    Dr. Seuss’s original, classic tale of the coolest, hippest cat in history! When the Cat in the Hat steps in on the mat, Sally and her brother are in for a roller-coaster ride of havoc and mayhem! The Cat can rescue them from a dull rainy day, but it means lots of thrills and spills along the way.
  13. Where the Wild Things Are
    Where the Wild Things Are is one of those truly rare books that can be enjoyed equally by a child and a grown-up. If you disagree, then it’s been too long since you’ve attended a wild rumpus. Max dons his wolf suit in pursuit of some mischief and gets sent to bed without supper. Fortuitously, a forest grows in his room, allowing his wild rampage to continue unimpaired. Sendak’s colour illustrations (perhaps his finest) are beautiful, and each turn of the page brings the discovery of a new wonder.
    Read our review of Where The Wild Things Are
  14. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
    For the first time in a decade, Willy Wonka, the reclusive and eccentric chocolate maker, is opening his doors to the public–well, five members of the public, actually. The lucky five who find a Golden Ticket in their Wonka bars will receive a private tour of the factory, given by Mr Wonka himself. For young Charlie Bucket, this a dream come true. So when he finds a dollar bill in the street, he can’t help but buy two Wonka’s Whipple-Scrumptious Fudgemallow Delights–even though his impoverished family could certainly use the extra dollar for food. But as Charlie unwraps the second chocolate bar, he sees the glimmer of gold just under the wrapper. The very next day, Charlie, along with his unworthy fellow winners Mike Teavee, Veruca Salt, Violet Beauregarde and Augustus Gloop, steps through the factory gates to discover whether or not the rumours surrounding the Chocolate Factory and its mysterious owner are true. What they find is that the gossip can’t compare to the extraordinary truth, and for Charlie, life will never be the same again.
  15. The Tiger who came to Tea
    This classic story of Sophie and her extraordinary tea-time guest has been loved by millions of children since it was first published over 30 years ago. Now a new generation will enjoy this beautiful reformatted edition! The doorbell rings just as Sophie and her mummy are sitting down to tea. Who could it possibly be? What they certainly don’t expect to see at the door is a big furry, stripy tiger!
  16. The Very Hungry Caterpillar
    A much-loved classic, The Very Hungry Caterpillar has won over millions of readers with its vivid and colourful collage illustrations and its deceptively simply, hopeful story. With its die-cut pages and finger-sized holes to explore, this is a richly satisfying book for children.
  17. Mr Men
    The first six Mr Men books were published in 1971, priced 20p. Mr. Tickle was the first Mr. Men character created by Hargreaves after his son, Adam, asked him what a tickle looked like: a round, orange figure with long, bendy arms. Each book in the original Mr. Men and Little Miss series introduced a different title character and their single dominant trait in order to convey a simple moral lesson.
  18. Watership Down
    Fiver could sense danger. Something terrible was going to happen to the warren – he felt sure of it. So did his brother Hazel, for Fiver’s sixth sense was never wrong. They had to leave immediately, and they had to persuade the other rabbits to join them. And so begins a long and perilous journey of a small band of rabbits in search of a safe home. Fiver’s vision finally leads them to Watership Down, but here they face their most difficult challenge of all… Published in 1972 Watership Down is an epic journey, a stirring tale of adventure, courage and survival against the odds.
    Read our review of Watership Down
  19. The BFG
    The BFG is one of Dahl’s most lovable character creations. Whether galloping off with Sophie nestled into the soft skin of his ear to capture dreams as though they were exotic butterflies; speaking his delightful, jumbled, squib-fangled patois; or whizzpopping for the Queen, he leaves an indelible impression of big-heartedness.
  20. Dear Zoo
    I wrote to the zoo to send me a pet . . . This classic lift-the-flap book has been a favourite with toddlers ever since it was first published in 1982. Now reissued as a sturdy casebound board book, perfect for little hands!
  21. We’re going on a Bear Hunt
    Winner of the 1989 Smarties Book Prize and highly commended for the 1989 Kate Greenaway Medal, this picture book tells of a family going in search of a bear in a cave.
  22. The Story of Tracy Beaker
    Shortlisted for the Smarties Prize in 1991, Tracy Beaker’s story, which is told in the first person by the infuriating and loveable 10-year-old Tracy, is a wonderfully funny and thought- provoking slice of life in a children’s home. Tracy, as she herself tells us, has had a hard time. She’s been fostered a number of times but it’s never worked out. Now she dreams of her glamorous mother coming to fetch her and spends her time, when she’s not quarrelling with the other children, writing her life story. And then one day, Cam, a real writer, visits the home and after a rocky start, she and Tracy really hit it off.
  23. His Dark Materials
    Philip Pullman‘s His Dark Materials trilogy astounded the literary world, reaping high praise from adults as well as children. The final book in the trilogy, The Amber Spyglass, was published to great literary acclaim, earning Pullman a place on the long list for the prestigious Booker Prize and pushing the trilogy toward cult fiction status for both children and adults.
    Read our reviews of His Dark Materials
  24. Harry Potter series
    The Harry Potter novels are prize-winning and consistently on the bestseller lists, and have now sold over 250 million copies worldwide. Originally published as an author for children and still primarily so, JK Rowling has generated huge popular appeal for her books in an unprecedented fashion. She was the first children’s author to be voted the BA Author of the Year, and also to win the British Book Awards Author of the Year.
    Read our reviews of Harry Potter
  25. The Gruffalo
    A witty, sly little story that wrings giggles from the belly of the reader, The Gruffalo is both stylish and hilarious, simple in its execution, as it plays skilfully on a child’s fears and then shows that even the most threatening of monsters are not always as scary as they seem. A combination of read-along-rhyme by Julia Donaldson and illustrations by Alex Sheffler which perfectly capture the atmosphere of the story, The Gruffalo is an excellent picture book for 3-5-year-olds to read along with their parents, and is certain to become something of a classic.
    Read our review of The Gruffalo

Weta Workshop to bring The Wind in the Willows back to life

Image: Cosgrove-Hall's 1980 adaptation of The Wind in the Willows. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame’s much-loved 1908 children’s book,  is being developed into a live-action and animatronics version by RG Entertainment. The film will be shot in New Zealand this Autumn with Peter Jackson’s visual effects company Weta Workshop onboard.

The Wind in the Willows has been filmed before, by Disney in 1949; a stop-motion animated TV series by Cosgrove-Hall in the 1980s (pictured); and a live-action version directed by Terry Jones in 1996, starring Steve Coogan and Eric Idle.

Ray Griggs will direct and produce the $30 million feature, with Richard Taylor handling the special effects with Kim Sinclair as production designer.

"At its heart, The Wind in the Willows is a story of friendship and the joys of home," Griggs told Daily Variety.

Griggs, owner and president of RG Entertainment, said he’s raised the funds through private investors and is expecting to announce cast members soon. He plans to record the dialogue first and shoot the film with the actors in animal costumes with state-of-the-art animatronics being used to duplicate facial expressions.

The 20 greatest children’s books ever, according to The Telegraph

Some are time-worn classics, some more recently embraced. Lucinda Everett selects the stories that resonate with the young decade after decade. We think that it is a great list and have added some of our favourites immediately afterwards.

  1. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
    Far from fading with time, Kenneth Grahame’s classic tale of fantasy has attracted a growing audience in each generation. Rat, Mole, Badger and the preposterous Mr Toad, have brought delight to many through the years with their odd adventures on and by the river, and at the imposing residence of Toad Hall.
  2. The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
    The Lord of the Rings is a magnificent achievement, an epic tale of friendship, love and heroism. This book set down the benchmark for all fantasy novels to come, without it the world would be a poorer place. Perfection is a very difficult goal to achieve, the Lord of the Rings comes as close to it as is maybe possible. Readers will be left with dreams of living in their very own hobbit hole and the journey that the Fellowship undertakes will remain with them for the rest of their lives. Tolkien’s narrative is breath-taking and his beautiful descriptions of Middle-earth are a joy to behold.
  3. The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling
    Harry Potter is an ordinary boy who lives in a cupboard under the stairs at his Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon’s house, which he thinks is normal for someone like him who’s parents have been killed in a ‘car crash’. He is bullied by them and his fat, spoilt cousin Dudley, and lives a very unremarkable life with only the odd hiccup (like his hair growing back overnight!) to cause him much to think about. That is until an owl turns up with a letter addressed to Harry and all hell breaks loose! He is literally rescued by a world where nothing is as it seems and magic lessons are the order of the day. Read and find out how Harry discovers his true heritage at Hogwarts School of Wizardry and Witchcraft, the reason behind his parents mysterious death, who is out to kill him, and how he uncovers the most amazing secret of all time, the fabled Philosopher’s Stone! All this and muggles too. Now, what are they?
  4. His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
    Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy astounded the literary world, reaping high praise from adults as well as children. The final book in the trilogy, The Amber Spyglass, was published to great literary acclaim, earning Pullman a place on the longlist for the prestigious Booker Prize and pushing the trilogy toward cult fiction status for both children and adults.
  5. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by CS Lewis
    Lucy steps into the Professor’s wardrobe – but steps out again into a snowy forest. She’s stumbled upon the magical world of Narnia, a land of unicorns, centaurs, fauns … and the wicked White Witch, who terrorises all. Lucy soon realises that Narnia, and in particular Aslan, the great Lion, need her help if the country’s creatures are ever going to be free again.
  6. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
    A much-loved classic, The Very Hungry Caterpillar has won over millions of readers with its vivid and colourful collage illustrations and its deceptively simply, hopeful story. With its die-cut pages and finger-sized holes to explore, this is a richly satisfying book for children.
  7. The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton
    When Joe, Beth and Frannie move to a new home, an Enchanted Wood is on their doorstep. And when they discover the Faraway Tree, that is the beginning of many magical adventures! Join them and their friends Moonface, Saucepan Man and Silky the fairy as they discover which new land is at the top of the Faraway Tree. Will it be the Land of Spells, the Land of Treats, or the Land of Do-As-You-Please? There’ll be adventures waiting for them, whatever happens; funny, magical adventures that will delight children again and again.
  8. Babar by Jean de Brunhoff
    "If you love elephants, you will love Babar and Celeste," writes A. A. Milne in his preface to "The Story of Babar". "And if you have never loved elephants, you will love them now."
  9. Treasure Island by RL Stevenson
    ‘Fifteen men on the dead man’s chest-Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!’ Treasure Island is a tale of pirates and villains, maps, treasure and shipwreck. When young Jim Hawkins finds a packet in Captain Flint’s sea chest, he could not know that the map inside it would lead him to unimaginable treasure. Shipping as cabin boy on the Hispaniola, he sails with Squire Trelawney, Captain Smollett, Dr Livesey, the sinister Long John Silver and a frightening crew to Treasure Island. There, mutiny, murder and mayhem lead to a thrilling climax.
  10. The Railway Children by E Nesbit
    When Father goes away with two strangers one evening, the lives of Roberta, Peter and Phyllis are shattered. They and their mother have to move from their comfortable London home to go and live in a simple country cottage, where Mother writes books to make ends meet. However, they soon come to love the railway that runs near their cottage, and they make a habit of waving to the Old Gentleman who rides on it. They befriend the porter, Perks, and through him learn railway lore and much else. They have many adventures, and when they save a train from disaster, they are helped by the Old Gentleman to solve the mystery of their father’s disappearance.
  11. Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome
    Arthur Ransome was a prolific writer of children’s books. Born in Leeds in 1884, it was his father, a nature-loving history professor, who inspired his love of the outdoors and nurtured a passion for fishing. As a child he enjoyed active, outdoor holidays: sailing, camping and exploring the countryside. He used many of these holiday settings for his children’s stories, notably the much loved Swallows and Amazons, a book that sits comfortably in the category of "timeless classic" and remains one of his most popular titles for young people.
  12. Winnie the Pooh by AA Milne
    AA Milne’s first stories about Winnie-the-Pooh, the most famous bear in the world, were published eighty years ago. Discover what happens when Pooh goes visiting and Piglet meets a Heffalump, not forgetting when Eeyore loses his tail and Pooh finds one!
  13. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
    Charlie Bucket finds a Golden Ticket which wins him a whole day at Willie Wonka’s chocolate factory in this captivating favourite by Roald Dahl.
  14. The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson
    The Gruffalo certainly lives up to its reputation as a classic read for both children and parents. The fantasy story captures the imagination of pre-schoolers as it takes them on a journey with mouse as he strolls through the wood and meets the beast himself, the Gruffalo. As the mouse revisits inhabitants of the wood with the Gruffalo, the mouse successfully convinces the beast that he, the mouse, is the scariest creature in the wood.
  15. Peter and Wendy (Peter Pan) by JM Barrie
    Peter Pan, the “boy who would not grow up,” originally appeared as a baby living a magical life among birds and fairies in J.M. Barrie’s sequence of stories, Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens. His later role as flying boy hero was brought to the stage by Barrie in the beloved play Peter Pan, which opened in 1904 and became the novel Peter and Wendy in 1911. In a narrative filled with vivid characters, epic battles, pirates, fairies, and fantastic imagination, Peter Pan’s adventures capture the spirit of childhood—and of rebellion against the role of adulthood in conventional society.
  16. Watership Down by Richard Adams
    Fiver could sense danger. Something terrible was going to happen to the warren – he felt sure of it. So did his brother Hazel, for Fiver’s sixth sense was never wrong. They had to leave immediately, and they had to persuade the other rabbits to join them. And so begins a long and perilous journey of a small band of rabbits in search of a safe home. Fiver’s vision finally leads them to Watership Down, but here they face their most difficult challenge of all…Published in 1972, "Watership Down" is an epic journey, a stirring tale of adventure, courage and survival against the odds.
  17. The Story of Tracy Beaker by Jacqueline Wilson
    ‘I’m Tracy Beaker. This is a book all about me. I’d read it if I were you. It’s the most incredible dynamic heart-rending story. Honest.’ Tracy is ten years old. She lives in a Children’s Home but would like a real home one day, with a real family. Meet Tracy, follow her story and share her hopes for the future in this beautifully observed, touching and often very funny tale, all told in Tracy’s own words.
  18. The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr
    This book has enduring charm and young children will delight in the preposterous notion of a tiger creating mayhem in the house.
  19. The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter
    The Tale of Peter Rabbit was first published by Frederick Warne in 1902 and endures as Beatrix Potter’s most popular and well-loved tale. It tells the story of a very mischievous rabbit and the trouble he encounters in Mr McGregor’s vegetable garden!
  20. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
    Maurice Sendak’s children’s picture book has become an acknowledged classic. A winner of the Caldecott Medal for the Most Distinguished Picture Book of the Year in 1964, Where the Wild Things Are is a timeless masterpiece that can be enjoyed equally by children and grown-ups.

So there ends The Telegraph’s collection of the 20 greatest children’s books ever. Fantasy Book Review would like to suggest 5 more titles that we believe worthy of appearing in such a list:

  1. The Iron Man by Ted Hughes
    Mankind must put a stop to the dreadful destruction caused by the Iron Man. A trap is set for him, but he cannot be kept down. Then, when a terrible monster from outer space threatens to lay waste to the planet, it is the Iron Man who finds a way to save the world.
  2. The Spook’s series by Joseph Delaney
    A wonderful and terrifying series by a new writer about a young boy training to be an exorcist. Thomas Ward is the seventh son of a seventh son and has been apprenticed to the local Spook. The job is hard, the Spook is distant and many apprentices have failed before Thomas. Somehow Thomas must learn how to exorcise ghosts, contain witches and bind boggarts. But when he is tricked into freeing Mother Malkin, the most evil witch in the County, the horror begins…
  3. The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness by Michelle Paver
    Thousands of years ago the land is one dark forest. Its people are hunter-gatherers. They know every tree and herb and they know how to survive in a time of enchantment and powerful magic. Until an ambitious and malevolent force conjures a demon: a demon so evil that it can be contained only in the body of a ferocious bear that will slay everything it sees, a demon determined to destroy the world. Only one boy can stop it – 12 year old Torak, who has seen his father murdered by the bear. With his dying breath, Torak’s father tells his son of the burden that is his. He must lead the bear to the mountain of the World Spirit and beg that spirit’s help to overcome it. Torak is an unwilling hero. He is scared and trusts no one. His only companion is a wolf cub only three moons old, whom he seems to understand better than any human. Theirs is a terrifying quest in a world of wolves, tree spirits and Hidden People, a world in which trusting a friend means risking your life.
  4. The Death Defying Pepper Roux by Geraldine McCaughrean
    When Pepper Roux was born his aunt foretold that he would not live past 14 years of age. Throughout his childhood his parents haven’t bothered with him much, knowing that his life would be short-lived. So when Pepper wakes up on his 14th birthday he knows this will be the day that he’ll die. But as the day wears on, and Pepper finds himself still alive, he decides to set off to sea in an attempt to try and avoid death for as long as possible. As time goes on Pepper steps into many roles and personas and has numerous outrageous adventures. But can he stay one step ahead of death? Or will fate catch up with him? And, if he does live, which of his many lives will he choose to adopt? This riot of a story is a wonderful adventure, and Pepper is an unforgettable character who stays with you long after his story has been told.
  5. The Edge Chronicles by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell
    The Edge Chronicles is a young-adult fantasy novel series by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell. It consists three trilogies and three additional books. Originally published in the United Kingdom, this bestseller series has since been published in the United States, Canada and Australia as well. To date, more than two million copies of the novels have been sold.

First edition of The Wind in the Willows sells for £32,400 at auction

Image: A first edition copy of The Wind in the WillowsA first edition of Kenneth Grahame‘s children’s classic, The Wind in the Willows, dedicated to the daughter of Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, who was thought to have been the model for the character of Ratty, has been sold at auction for £32,400, vastly exceeding the £5,000 estimate.

The inscription inside reads: “To Foy Felicia Quiller Couch from her affectionate friend Kenneth Grahame, Oct. 1908.”

Grahame wrote The Wind in the Willows in 1908. The first two books he had written had been about children such as only the grown-up could understand; this one was about animals such as could be loved equally by young and old. It was natural that those critics who had saluted the earlier books as masterpieces should be upset by the author’s temerity in writing a different sort of book; natural that they should resent their inability to place the new book as more or less of a ‘children’s book’ than those which had actually had children in them. For this reason (or some other) The Wind in the Willows was not immediately the success which it should have been. Two people, however, became almost offensively its champions. One of them was no less important a person that the President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt. The other was AA Milne.

Far from fading with time, Grahame’s classic tale of fantasy has attracted a growing audience in each generation. Rat, Mole, Badger, and the preposterous Mr. Toad (with his ‘Poop-poop-poop’ road-hogging new motor-car), have brought delight to many through the years with their odd adventures on and by the river, and the imposing residence of Toad Hall.

First edition of The Wind in the Willows a star lot at Bonhams

Image: The Wind in the Willows, first edition A first edition of the much loved children’s classic, The Wind in the Willows, inscribed by Kenneth Grahame to the daughter of the man who inspired the character of Ratty, is among the star lots offered at Bonhams Printed Books, Maps and Manuscripts sale at New Bond Street on 23 March. The estimate is £3,000 – 5,000.

The inscription in the book to be auctioned reads, “To Foy Felicia Quiller Couch from her affectionate friend Kenneth Grahame, Oct. 1908″. Foy was the daughter of the noted Cornish author, essayist and anthologist Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch at whose home, The Haven at Fowey, Kenneth Grahame often stayed and where he first found the inspiration for The Wind in the Willows. Quiller-Couch is thought to have been the model for the character of Ratty, both having a liking for “messing about in boats”.

“One can argue over the merits of most books, and in arguing understand the point of view of one’s opponent. One may even come to the conclusion that possibly he is right after all. One does not argue about The Wind in the Willows. The young man gives it to the girl with whom he is in love, and if she does not like it, asks her to return his letters. The older man tries it on his nephew, and alters his will accordingly. The book is a test of character. We can’t criticise it, because it is criticising us. It is a Household Book; a book which everybody in the household loves, and quotes continually; a book which is read aloud to every guest and is regarded as the touchstone of his worth. But I must give you one word of warning. When you sit down to it, don’t be so ridiculous as to suppose that you are sitting in judgement of my taste, or on the art of Kenneth Grahame. You are merely sitting in judgement on yourself. You may be worthy: I don’t know. But it is you who are on trial.”
A.A. Milne

If at first you don’t succeed…

The Examiner takes a fascinating look at the author’s who went on to large-scale success despite initial rejections. They feature extracts from the rejection letters themselves. Here is a selective list of the books, click on the link below it to read about the topic in greater detail.

Source: Examiner.com

The Wind in the Willows is 100 years old

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame There are certain books that become a permanent part of your life, like an old tree that stands at the bend of a favourite path. You may not notice them, but if they were taken away, the world would be less mysterious, less friendly, less itself.

The Wind in the Willows, published 100 years ago this year, is one of those books.

Millions of other people share that feeling. Since its first publication, it has been issued in over a hundred editions and translated into many languages, with annual sales figures running into the hundreds of thousands. With Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer, JRR Tolkien‘s The Lord of the Rings and CS LewisChronicles of Narnia, it is one of those rare books that speaks with the same eloquence to children and adults – and is equally beloved by both.

The pleasures of “The Wind in the Willows” are endless. Take the scene where Rat and Mole meet. Mole is shy. Rat rows across the river. Rat invites Mole to a picnic lunch. Afterward, Rat casually says, “Look here! I really think you had better come and stop with me for a little time.” Mole accepts, moves into Rat’s house, and as far as we know he is living there still. It’s an evocation of friendship right out of a fairy tale, where the prince and the princess fall in love at first sight. But it’s a fairy tale that Grahame makes real, capturing that moment when two people suddenly realize, without fanfare, that they’d rather spend time with each other than do anything else.

And always, there is the glorious language. It is apples and oranges to compare Kenneth Grahame and the two other masters of genre-blurring imaginative prose, Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Grahame cannot rival Tolkien’s epic grandeur, nor does he possess Lewis’ double ability to create completely different imaginary worlds and weave vivid and intricate stories. But neither of those geniuses handle English the way he does. Tolkien knows only the high style, and Lewis’ solid prose never soars. Grahame is the inheritor of the stately style of Thomas Browne and the lyrical effusions of Wordsworth, with a little Dickens and P.G. Wodehouse thrown in as ballast.

The Wind in the Willows can be so many books during one reader’s lifetime because it is more than one book to begin with. It is at once a children’s book and an adult book, a wish-fulfillment and a satire, a comic adventure story and a poetic bildungsroman, the rollicking story of Toad and the inward-turning story of Mole. It exists half in the human world, half in the animal: the very nature of its four-legged characters is unstable. And it also tells the secret story of its author — a story few know, and one as profoundly sad as the book is profoundly happy.

Source: Salon.com

Kenneth Grahame was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, on 8 March 1859. Excelling in both academic and sports pursuits whilst attending St. Edward’s School in Oxford, Grahame did not continue on with his dream of a university education due to financial constraints. In 1879 Grahame obtained a position within the Bank of England as a gentleman clerk but he found the routine so dulling that, from his rooms on Bloomsbury Street, turned his pen to writing stories. His first published story was titled By A Northern Furrow (1888), and his most famous short story is, still, “The Reluctant Dragon” (1898).

“One can argue over the merits of most books, and in arguing understand the point of view of one’s opponent. One may even come to the conclusion that possibly he is right after all. One does not argue about The Wind in the Willows. The young man gives it to the girl with whom he is in love, and if she does not like it, asks her to return his letters. The older man tries it on his nephew, and alters his will accordingly. The book is a test of character. We can’t criticise it, because it is criticising us. It is a Household Book; a book which everybody in the household loves, and quotes continually; a book which is read aloud to every guest and is regarded as the touchstone of his worth. But I must give you one word of warning. When you sit down to it, don’t be so ridiculous as to suppose that you are sitting in judgement of my taste, or on the art of Kenneth Grahame. You are merely sitting in judgement on yourself. You may be worthy: I don’t know. But it is you who are on trial.” AA Milne

Classic Winnie-the-Pooh illustrations to be auctioned

A large oval pencil drawing of Pooh bear reaching into a honey pot, while his friends Tigger and Piglet sit around a kitchen table, is expected to fetch up to £20,000 when it is sold at Bonhams on November 4.

It is an enlarged and expanded version of the illustration “Tiggers don’t like honey” used in AA Milne‘s The House at Pooh Corner. The first sketch for Kenneth Grahame‘s The Wind in the Willows is also for sale, and could go for as much as £10,000 according to the auction house. The evocative pencil sketch depicts Rat and Mole lounging with a picnic by the banks of the river. The caption in the published book read “Now pitch in, old fellow! And the Mole was indeed very glad to obey”.

E.H. Shepard, born in 1879, became known as the ‘Man who drew Pooh’, but was also an acclaimed artist in his own right. Shepard won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Arts, and later, like Milne, worked for Punch magazine as a cartoonist and an illustrator. Shepard’s illustrations of Winnie-the-Pooh and the friends of the Hundred Acre Wood have become classics in their own right and are recognised all over the world.

Times Online run The Wind in the Willows competition

The Wind in the Willows illustration Vintage Classics are looking for a young artist to create an original illustration inspired by The Wind in the Willows. Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows is celebrating its 100th birthday and needs a new cover. The competition is open to UK residents between the ages of seven and twelve on the 25th of July 2008.

Entries can be in black and white or colour and must be submitted on no larger than A4-sized sheet. Entries must not include any text (even the title or the author). Each entry must include a sheet of A4 paper with the entrant’s name, date of birth, address, telephone number, and the name and signature of a parent or guardian (this confirms agreement to the terms and conditions and consent to the entrant’s participation in the competition). Only one entry per person, and one illustration per entry is allowed. Entries must be sent by post only, to The Wind in the Willows Competition, 2nd Floor, Random House, 20 Vauxhall Bridge Rd, London SW1V 2SA. Entries must be received by July 25, 2008. Winners will be notified by October 10 and announced in The Times

The winner will have their illustration featured on the cover of the centenary edition of The Wind in The Willows, to be published by Vintage Classics in November 2008. The winner will also receive 40 Random House children’s books of his or her choice. Three runners-up will each receive 20 Random House children’s books of his or her choice.