The Wind in the Willows - Some of The Best Illustrated Children's Editions

Pin It

The mission statement was clear.

Find the best illustrated hardcover edition of Kenneth Graham's masterpiece The Wind in the Willows for my twins.

I also had to make sure the book was an unabridged version very suitable for read-alouds that can entrance my listeners on the force of its illustrations alone.

Simple, I thought.

Before you read any further I must admit that I failed in part of my "mission" - at the end I opted for a very carefully abridged version of The Wind in the Willow, on the strength of illustrations alone.

Yes, for fans of unabridged editions - hereby I admit I have sinned.

But in my defense I must say that I did it purely for the sake of the enjoyment of my twins - who adore lavishly illustrated books.

It is such a beauty that I am simply enthralled with it.

The book I've chosen is a version of The Wind in the Willows illustrated by ...


No, I can't say it yet.

I have to come clean. Yes, I have enjoyed other books illustrated by this illustrator before.

And I LOVED them.

I am emotionally involved with these illustrations!
Inga Moore's illustrations are impossibly amazing

There it is. I said it.

Previously I chose one of the other famous children's classics for our home library based on the strength of this illustrator's paintings alone.

And now again ... I chose the Inga Moore version of The Wind in the Willows as my top pick.

The lady is a champ.

But you may ask - aren't the "original illustrations" of The Wind in the Willows - a book first published in 1908 - preferable?

And it is a valid question.

Well, when the book was originally published by Kenneth Grahame, it was not an illustrated edition.

Over the past 100+ years, more than 50 different illustrators have adorned the pages of this children's classic with their own visions of the story.

Clearly, this is an inspiring tale for children and grown-ups alike. That is always a good sign for read-alouds, as the greatest children's books are always magical treats both for adults and kids.
Robert Ingpen's version of
The Wind in the Willows

Moore's anthropomorphic illustrations of the main characters are clearly recognizable as animals - yet they have those human 'je ne sais quoi' attributes.

The Mole, the Toad, the Rat and the Badger are drawn so clearly true to their own nature - and the added human element makes them stand out from the pages of Grahame's story.

Five years ago, an original copy of the book's first edition sold for £32,400. Interestingly, the author began this marvelous book - not as a storybook - but as a series of letters to his son Alistair.

Alistair also served, allegedly, as the inspiration for Mr. Toad's character.

But, what is especially interesting is that publishers both in the US and UK rejected Grahame's manuscript as uninspiring.

The famous children's book author Arthur Ransome, writing a review of The Wind in the Willows for The Bookman, even went as far as to call it called it an utter failure, "like a speech to Hottentots made in Chinese".

With a Little Help from my Friends

Believe you can and you're halfway there.Theodore Roosevelt

On the other hand, Grahame had an avid supporter in the then US president Theodore Roosevelt, who informed Grahame in a letter in 1909 that he had "read it and reread" The Wind in the Willows, and "I have come to accept the characters as old friends". Roosevelt was instrumental in later convincing US publisher Scribner to give a green light to the storybook.

But, times have changed and The Wind in the Willows is now part of our collective memory.

It has been published and republished many times. Many fans of The Wind in the Willows will rightfully point their fingers to the Robert Ingpen illustrated version as a beautiful edition, which has in time become a classic of its own.

Read Aloud Dad, but what about Ingpen's version of The Wind in the Willows, you ask?

Right now, I am enjoying one of Ingpen's incredible works - his illustrated version of Treasure Island.

Yet, Ingpen's vision of The Wind in the Willows (a Sterling Illustrated Classic) simply did not move me as much as Moore's version.

In my opinion (this is of course a highly personal assessment) the illustrations pale in comparison to Inga Moore's.

However, it has something else riding for it - the Ingpen version is an unabridged edition, which is a boon.

Yet, there is an even more famous illustrator of The Wind in the Willows that precedes Robert Ingpen.
E.H. Shepard's version of
The Wind in the Willows

Namely, another possible option that I considered was the 'original' version of The Wind in the Willows, illustrated by E.H. Sheperd.

Although Grahame published The Wind in the Willows in the early 20th century, it was not until 1931 that his publisher proposed that the book should include illustrations from the renowned illustrator E.H. Shepard.

In fact, this had come as somewhat of a surprise, as Grahame reportedly had never been satisfied with previous attempts to capture the spirit of his animal personalities and their magical world, yet he did appreciate Shepard’s drawings for his books.

Today, most generations of readers know the Shepard-illustrated edition and some cannot even imaging reading The Wind in the Willows without the original illustrations.

Ernest Howard Shepard - of Winnie-the-Pooh fame - came from an artistic family and he was a schooled artist from the get go. He was renowned as a cartoonist in the period between the two great wars and famous for his contributions to the UK's Punch magazine, as well as being a very industrious illustrator of books in the period.

The Shepard illustrated edition of The Wind in the Willows is, of course, also an unabridged edition, giving it extra points.

Yet, Shepard did not win in my search. He came a close second.

My Favorite - The Inga Moore Edition

Well, in fact, I found the Inga Moore illustrated version one day, when I stumbled upon the UK edition published by Walker Books - I was mesmerized.
Inga Moore's illustrations of The Wind in the Willows

The Walker Books edition is in essence the same as the Candlewick edition in the US, the main difference is that they have a different cover page. (I like the UK cover page more - but don't tell Candlewick).

Regardless of which edition you are looking at (UK or US) - Inga Moore's numerous pastel & ink illustrations will make you swoon.

There is sooooo many of them!

Gems, gems and gems - practically every page is illustrated with an entrancing image.

One would be forgiven for thinking that Inga Moore has been a professional illustrator since ... since ... well, for ever.

Look at the mood, look at those colors, immerse yourself in those details!

This is a perfect edition for children!

It works like a magnet, children are drawn to it like flies!

Moore began drawing as a schoolchild, illustrating books and notebooks and even tests and quizzes! Yet, she her development as an illustrator did not follow a straight line.

Alas, her Latin teacher once asked her to stop her silly habit, if she wanted "one day to amount to something".

Inga Moore stopped drawing for an extended time and recently admitted that she remains resentful about that teacher's attitude. As a result, she never attended art school and entered the 'rat race', moving from one boring job to another until one day she returned to the drawing board.

Inga Moore's illustrations of The Wind in the Willows
Thankfully, she chose a classic to illustrate and today we have a read-aloud that is second to none in its visual appeal.

As far as I determined, the Inga Moore illustrated version leaves out several chapters - instead of re-writing the entire Kenneth Grahame masterpiece.

The bulk of Kenneth Grahame's text is retained, however some chapters have been axed.

Yet, that means that the wonderful language of the original has not been dumbed down to '21st century English' - it remains its classical appeal.

Is there anything better than a classical children's book that is so well illustrated that it serves as lavish bridge to a time that existed more than a century ago?

Inga Moore's 'wall-to-wall' illustrations are exactly that.

They serve as a time machine that permits young minds to fully absorb the richness of Kenneth Grahame's text, even though his masterpiece was penned back in 1908.

I haven't yet read this masterpiece to my twins - but they have discovered it in our home library and they are begging me to start reading it.

I will - but not in the next few weeks or months. I feel that they will enjoy the richness of Grahame's English in the stories of friendly Mole, his best pal Water Rat, the cheerful Badger and the capricious Toad even more when they are just a wee little bit older.
More wonderful Inga Moore illustrations
of The Wind in the Willows

Not because I think that younger kids can't enjoy it - but we have so many books on our "to read" list already - this one will have to wait one more year.

The expectation will also increase their enjoyment I hope - its is such a masterpiece of art.

I wonder what Kenneth Grahame would think if he had the opportunity of seeing these illustrations by Inga Moore?

Would he be stunned, surprised and delighted?

I truly hope so and I hope that you will take my recommendation to heart.

This is an unmissable book, even if you have to read this delicately abridged copy - and later you can include the few missing adventures to your kids from another edition.

This Moore edition is an illustrated version we simply had to have in our home library - a book that I simply could not refuse to my twins.

However, if you prefer to have the unabridged illustrated version, you can choose between the Ingpen edition or the classically illustrated Shepard edition (I favor it over Ingpen's).

At the end, it all boils down to preferences...

In know that there are other favorites out there such as Arthur Rackham's version, or the Michael Hague illustrated edition and the Helen Ward illustrated gem (thanks to the unrepentant biliophile con chuck from Google + for this tip) - yet Moore remains my personal favorite.

Please do tell me about any illustrated versions that you prefer over the three editions that I mentioned above!

Which one is your favorite?

The Wind in the Willows (Inga Moore illustrationsis available from bookstores in the USA:


BookDepository (free worldwide shipping)

and from around the world

Amazon UK
Amazon CA
Amazon DE

Or check out an Audible audio edition (unabridged) below:



    1. Hello. I am new to the blog. I would love to know the age group your reviews are targeted at.

    2. Hi sRs,

      My twins are currently 7-year olds and I reviewed only books that I read to them up until now.

      But I also wrote about books that I purchased for them (for future reading), such as The Wind in the Willows and others.

      I always wanted to classify the books into age groups, but when it comes to reading aloud - the exact ages for a certain book are very fluid.

      It mostly depends on your child and his/her listening habits and book preferences.

      So, I usually leave the age recommendation up to parents.

      Thanks for your question!

      Read Aloud Dad

    3. Syntha Martin GreenFebruary 2, 2015 at 8:19 PM

      MIchael Hague will always be the best The Wind in the Willows to me, but I could be biased because mine is autographed, complete with sketch!

    4. Hi Syntha,

      Lucky you!!! Autographed with sketch - that would be my favorite too!!

      Thanks for the book tip - I never heard of it, but it seems truly hilarious! My kids will love it I am sure. It's on my list now. (here's the link for The Book With No Pictures - if someone wants to check it out after this glowing recommendation - )

      Thanks so much for sharing!

      Read Aloud Dad

    5. We loved Wind in the Willows.
      This year we found Return to the Willows by Jacqueline Kelly. She does an amazing job of writing a sequel that captures the same humour and wit of the original classic with all the same characters that we loved. The illustrations in her book are also amazing!

    6. Hi Carina,

      Wow, what a find! I never ever heard of "Return to the Willows" - and now it seems like a "must read" for us after we finish reading the original.

      Love that you enjoyed the book and that it mirrors the original humor and involves the same characters!

      When you mentioned amazing illustrations ... you bought me! We will read it too!

      Thanks so much for kindly sharing your experience with the book! I learn so much from comments left on this site - and your comment is one of the ones that open my eyes to a great book.

      Read Aloud Dad

      PS. Here is a link to Return to the Willows if anyone wants to check out the illustrations or existing reviews ( )

    7. I am happy that I bought Inga's book for the illustrations but I would never choose to read the text - not even to children. I knew it was abridged but I could not get past the first chapter as I found some of the omissions in just the first few pages unnecessary and really totally disrespectful of Kenneth Grahame's beautiful writing.