Washington Post Notable Books: "A charming and funny sequel to Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows. "
In this delightful dive into the bygone world of Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows staunch Mole, sociable Water Rat, severe Badger, and troublesome and ebullient Toad of Toad Hall are joined by a young mole lady, Beryl, and her dear friend, Rabbit. There are adventures, kidnappings, lost letters, and family secretslavishly illustrated throughout by award-winning artist Kathleen Jennings.
Praise for Kij Johnson:
“ The Fox Woman immediately sets the author in the front rank of today’s novelists.” Lloyd Alexander
“Johnson has a singular vision and I’m going to be borrowing (stealing) from her.” Sherman Alexie
“Johnson’s language is beautiful, her descriptions of setting visceral, and her characters compellingly drawn.” Publishers Weekly (starred re-view)
“Johnson would fit quite comfortably on a shelf with Karen Russell, Erin Morgen-stern and others who hover in the simultaneous state of being both “literary” and “fantasy” writers.” Shelf Awareness
Kij Johnson ’s stories have won the Sturgeon, World Fantasy, and Nebula awards. She has taught writing and has worked at Dark Horse, Microsoft, and Real Networks. She has run bookstores, worked as a radio announcer and engineer, edited cryptic crosswords, and waitressed in a strip bar.
Kathleen Jennings was raised on fairytales in western Queensland. She trained as a lawyer and filled the margins of her notes with pen-and-ink illustrations. She has been nominated for the World Fantasy award and has received several Ditmar Awards. She lives in Brisbane, Australia.
|Publisher:||Small Beer Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.60(h) x 0.70(d)|
|Age Range:||12 - 11 Years|
About the Author
Kij Johnson's stories have won the Sturgeon, World Fantasy, and Nebula awards. She has taught writing and has worked at Tor, Dark Horse, Microsoft, and Real Networks. She has run bookstores, worked as a radio announcer and engineer, edited cryptic crosswords, and waitressed in a strip bar.
Kathleen Jennings was raised on fairytales in western Queensland. She trained as a lawyer and filled the margins of her notes with pen and ink illustrations. She has been nominated for the World Fantasy award and has received several Ditmar Awards. She lives in Brisbane, Australia.
Read an Excerpt
The news was everywhere on the River Bank and had been heard as far as the Wild Wood: Sunflower Cottage just above the weir had been taken by two female animals, and it was being set up for quite an extended stay. More, it was all being done properly, the River Bank's housewives all agreed. There was none of this casual, slapdash housekeeping that bachelor gentlemen were so apt to consider sufficient.
Every rag and stick of the cottage's contents had been turned out into the bright June daylight — and this was a surprisingly glorious June, with long days of bright golden sunlight, the countryside glowingly green from the rain which fell, in the most mannerly way, only at night — and everything scrubbed until it shone. The housewives all especially approved of this part of the activity because it gave them a good look at the cottage's furnishings. It had belonged for many years to an aged bachelor Hare, who had kept no housekeeper and only a single Rabbit who "did" for him; and indeed, it was all very satisfying, just dirty enough to vindicate them in their general disparagement of bachelors, without lessening to any degree their affection for the old Hare, now passed on to his reward.
The roof had been mended, and a moderately trustworthy Stoat hired and set to weeding the flower beds and rolling out the little lawn until it was smooth as a tennis court.
A spanking-new covered stove had arrived from Town and been installed. A travelling sweep had spent a highly productive afternoon with brushes and rods. Whitewash had been splashed about with liberality. Curtains had been washed, pressed, and rehung. A new water barrel had been purchased and painted bright blue.
And then there had arrived cartloads and cartloads of furnishings and supplies: jams and hams and cheeses and candles; bedding; a immense vase wrapped in burlap and filled with mixed peacock feathers and umbrellas; a number of heavy-framed pictures wrapped in flannel; a battered writing-desk; two glorious, shining bicycles with little wicker baskets; a sewing machine with an iron treadle; and boxes, crates, satchels, trunks, and undifferentiated parcels of every shape and size. The housewives nodded their approval. This was doing a thing right.
And last and best, in a dogcart up from the station on the first really hot day of the summer, the new arrivals themselves: a young Mole lady — everyone knew her proper name was Beryl, though no one could say just how they had discovered this — and her dear friend, the Rabbit. Several members of the neighborhood had contrived to be present when they first appeared. An old Mouse bent nearly double had chanced to be resting on the stile at the bottom of the cottage's garden, and said later that they looked to be very proper young animals. Beryl was wearing a travelling-dress as neat as it was pretty, in a glossy dark-brown silk trimmed with velvet bands, and a cap surmounted with a little velvet bow.
"The Rabbit, though," said the old Mouse. "She looks a bit silly, with all those silk cherries on her hat, and them pink ribbons! But aren't they all," the Mouse added. "Rabbits is always right flighty."
The satisfaction felt by the feminine residents of the River Bank was not, alas, universal. A few days after the arrival of Beryl and the Rabbit, the Mole said to his friend, the Water Rat, "I do not see what all this fuss is about. We were going along very well without these two setting everything at sixes and sevens."
Even the Rat, a confirmed bachelor, felt this was unjust. "Now, Mole, that's not fair; you know it's not. There was a lot of here-ing and there-ing at first, but now things are nearly as they were. The young ladies keep to themselves. Why, we hardly see them!"
The Mole and the Water Rat had been on the River since early that morning, a day that had dawned full of charming promise. In the matter of a single short hour, an expedition was called for, funded, provisioned, manned, and launched, and the two had set off with the Water Rat's boat packed to the gunwales with baskets, cushions, and fishing tackle. It had been a productive day in regards to fish-catching, luncheon-eating, pipe-smoking, and nap-taking; and now, as the sun lowered itself towards the distant trees, and the gnats rose from the cooling, gurgling, chuckling waters of the River, and the swifts dashed among them, the two friends were returning to the Water Rat's snug hole in the Bank: the Mole pleased to exercise his growing skills with the oars, the Rat content to let him do the work and with rare tact refraining from correcting his form.
They were passing Sunflower Cottage. The new inhabitants were not themselves visible, but a steady plume of smoke rose from the kitchen chimney, and there came on the cooling breeze the distinct scent of something or other baking. Windows were open, and flowers in pitchers were bright on every sill: a sight that ought to have brought joy to any beholder; except that it did not, apparently, to the Mole.
"Keeping to themselves means they're up to something," said the Mole grimly. "Females nearly always are."
The Water Rat chided, "Moley, is that fair? Is that just?" "Yes," said the Mole baldly. "That is exactly what they are like."
The Rat leaned back and eyed the cottage, falling behind them now. "I should have thought you might like to have another Mole around. It makes things more homey, I should have said."
The Mole made a noise that sounded like "Pfaugh," or its equivalent, and added, forgetting his grammar, "'Homey' is exactly what I do not want. No, Ratty, I do see what you mean, and I am sure they are very nice animals, but — females, you know. You know what they are like! All musical soirees, and visits to Town for tooth-drawings, and endless washings-up, and clean collars, and morning visits and flower-pressing expeditions and tussie-mussies and —"
"Watch out!" the Water Rat cried; the Mole, by now quite het up, was rowing so hard and with so little attention that he stood a real risk of driving the boat its full length onto the bank, which just here came down as a grassy, reedy slope to the water's very edge. The Mole caught himself and, quite shamefaced, reversed oars.
"I am sorry, Ratty! I did not mean to become so ..." He trailed off. "I must have become a sad bore. I do apologize."
"I understand," the Rat said kindly. "I really do, Moley. Everything was going on so well before this, and now you see everything disrupted."
"Precisely!" exclaimed the poor Mole. "I don't see why we need anyone else. We went along admirably without them."
The Water Rat laughed. "If we on the River Bank had said that a few years back, we should have hustled you right back to your snug cave, and I should be out a good friend, and you would never have learned about boating. Moley, how can you crab so? I think it is only because one of the new residents is a Mole lady."
"That is not it at all," said the Mole, a little crossly. "In fact —" But he cut himself off abruptly, and when the Water Rat looked at him in surprise, he said no more, only shook his head, a stubborn, secretive expression on his normally open face.
The wise Rat cocked an eye at the Mole. "Well, as to that," he said at last, peaceably, "if it's fancy teas and croquet on the lawn they'll be wanting, I am sure Toad does that better than we ever shall. No, they shall keep to their own doings, I expect — cooking, or needlepoint, or whatever it is that females do with their days. For myself — O, I say, Moley," he went on in quite a different tone, "there's the Badger! I haven't seen him in days, I don't think. Ahoy, Badger!" This last in a cheery, open-throated shout.
The Badger had been walking with some force along the path beside the River; but at the hail he looked up and saw them, and made as though to come down the bank directly, with such clear intent that the Water Rat directed the Mole to pull close beneath a low-hanging willow just ahead. The Mole managed this without assistance, looping the painter over a low branch as though born to the water: so competently, indeed, that the Rat said, "Well done, Mole!" as he leapt across to the verge. The Mole felt his heart swell with pride.
"Out raking?" said the Badger.
The Rat replied pleasantly, "A perfect day for an outing, we thought — and we did well, in the way of trout. I would have imagined you'd be in the Wild Wood this fine day, regulating Stoats, or monitoring Weasels, or some such."
The Badger shook his great shaggy head, and in his rough, low voice said, "No, all is well — or as well as it can ever be, with Stoats. They will break out into some wretched excess again, I am sure, but there has been none of that lately." That was referring to the events of the past winter, when quite a number of the less trustworthy animals had forgotten their place entirely and invaded the stately mansion, Toad Hall, ruining the furnishings and drinking up all the port, and in general validating everyone's low opinion of them.
"Where are you off to, Badger?" said the Mole.
"I am on my way to Toad's," said the Badger. "I want to have a quick word with him before he sits down to dinner."
"I hope he is not doing anything foolish again," the Rat said, a little severely. "We have all had quite enough of that from him." This time, that was referring to Toad's recent passion for motor-cars, the latest (and, as they all hoped but rather doubted, last) disastrous enthusiasm in a life rather overfull of disastrous enthusiasms; and incidentally a contributing factor in the Stoats' and Weasels' recent misbehaviors.
"No," said the Badger soberly. "I think he has learnt his lesson at last, and is committed to being a higher, better Toad. He has been interesting himself in the estates, just as his father would like to see. It is true that he has only managed to sell the Low Pasture to three different people without meaning to; and he has purchased a corn-thresher that he does not need; and it is true that he has also hired (at immense expense) an architect to draw up plans for a tourist-camp to be built upon the South Lawn; but you must admit that he is trying."
"Very trying!" laughed the Water Rat. "Well, I am sure he shall ask you to dine with him, and Toad is the very best of good hosts; but come sup with us, instead. It won't be but a bite, but Mole here proved most amazingly effective as a trout-catcher; and trout has to be eaten up fresh or there's no good in it."
"I will," assented the Badger. "I am recalling to his mind an obligation he has, as the master of Toad Hall, and he may not relish the intrusion, so I shall be very happy to say my piece and leave."
"Well, you can tell us all about it when you come back for supper. If we're still awake!" the Rat said, with another laugh.
They were indeed still awake the Badger came at last down the little graveled path to the Water Rat's front door. It had taken longer to unload the boat than it had to load it, as they were quite tired and a bit stupid with fatigue, so that everything had required about twice as long as it should have; and when the Rat had decided a pipe and a "bit of something" (in this case, foaming, cool ginger beer drawn from a very attractive little barrel in his cellar, served in pewter tankards) was absolutely required before they settled down to the toil of preparing the fish, the Mole had not disagreed but only said, "Yes, rather," and then, a short while later, "Perhaps another?"
It was nearly full dark when the Badger at last appeared. He met the Mole bringing up the fish from the water's edge, cleaned now and stacked nose-to-tail in an old wooden trencher. They walked in together to find the revitalized Rat bent over a spitting-hot frying pan. "Cold fried potatoes, fried eggs, pickled onions, rocket and tomatoes, and bread, of course, and a custard and a bit of plum cake after, is all," said that noble animal briefly. "And the trout, of course. Just a snack, really; I feel almost bad about keeping you from Toad's board. How did he take your visit?"
The Badger opened his mouth to speak, but the Mole shook his head decidedly. "No, Ratty. Badger will start talking and you will start asking questions and forget to watch the fish, and we shall end up with all news and no supper. No. Supper and then news."
They ate on the Water Rat's little lawn, and it was as splendid as the best of such late-night picnic meals can be, jolly and casual and just a bit messy. And gossipy: when the food had all been eaten and the Badger and the Water Rat had lit their pipes, there was all sorts of news to share, for everyone was busy along the River Bank, as well as in the Wild Wood. "And the Wide World, for all we know," said the Badger. "It is June there, too. Their senses cannot be so dead that they do not heed it."
"So, Badger, what do you think of our new neighbors?" said the Water Rat presently.
"O, Ratty, no," moaned the Mole; but the Badger seemed not to hear.
"I have not met them yet," he said, "but they are said to be perfectly pleasant animals. The young Mole lady —"
"Beryl," said the Mole, in a low, dejected tone.
"— keeps very much to herself, I understand: a very proper, dignified young animal. They say she spends all her mornings inside, doing no one knows what. As for Miss Rabbit ..." He knocked the ashes from his pipe onto the table. Delightful life! To dine at night out of doors, and knock out one's pipe just so, and cast one's crumbs to the wind, and pour the dregs of ginger beer grown warm into the grass; and all the cleaning-up left for morning. "Well," continued the Badger, "Rabbits are irresponsible, but she seems no worse than the rest of them, and better than some. At least our new neighbors seem free of many of the flitterings-about to which so many young females are inclined."
"I do not see —" muttered the Mole, but the Badger only continued.
"And that is what I have been about tonight. I reminded our friend of his duties as Toad of Toad Hall, and recommended he invite them to tea the day after tomorrow —"
"Badger, why —" exclaimed the Mole, more loudly this time.
"— on the terrace, weather permitting." The Badger cast a knowledgeable eye on the glowing night sky, which was cloudless and filled with stars, for the moon had not yet risen. "But I think this weather should hold, until then at least. I suggested champagne punch, as a proper light beverage for ladies," he ended.
"Badger, no!" the Mole cried in what was very nearly a shout, loud enough that a Duck sleeping down the bank a bit called out, "Steady, guv'nor! Can't a body get his forty outside and get the good of the fresh air without a lot of bellerin' and hollerin' in the wee hours?"
The Mole apologized and continued in a lower tone. "How could you bring this up with Toad? They will ruin everything."
The Badger's expression was hidden by the darkness, but he sounded disapproving. "It is Toad's duty, Mole. His is the great house in these parts, and it is up to Toad to make the young ladies officially welcome to the River Bank. Surely you would not like to see him be remiss in his duties, and thus besmirch the estimable name of Toad!"
"Well —" began the Mole, sounding as though that would not in fact bother him much, but the Badger interrupted.
"Mole, I am surprised at you. You, a Mole! Hitherto invariably courteous and gentlemanly; a generous host; a true and amiable friend. And yet, every time anyone mentions these young ladies, you become sullen and petulant — yes, I said 'petulant,'" the Badger said, as the Mole opened his mouth to object, "and I meant 'petulant.' Where is the parfit gentil Mole I have learned to hold up to others as a model of proper behavior?"
The Mole sighed. "Of course you are right. It's just — no. No," he said, more firmly. "You are right. A Mole does not shirk. I apologize to you, Badger — and you, Ratty. I am sure I have been a sad trial. They will disrupt everything in some uncomfortable fashion, I am sure; but that is no reason to be unpleasant about it all. I will do better."
"That is the Mole we admire," said the Badger approvingly. "When you come to Toad's tea, you shall see they are not so bad."
"Wait!" said the Mole. "You didn't say we had to meet them, as well!"
The Rat said lazily, "Don't be an ass, Moley, of course we're invited. It's Toad. He'll want moral support. And the food will be excellent, so there's that."
Excerpted from "The River Bank"
Copyright © 2017 Kathleen Jennings.
Excerpted by permission of Small Beer Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Tea at Toad Hall
A Regrettable Consequence
The Dustley Turismo X
A Den of Thieves
Mole and Beryl
Cribbed, Cabined, and Confined
Return to the River Bank