The Willows at Christmas

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Today I was feeling depressed because I think I'm allergic to my Christmas tree, so I decided to try to pull myself out of my pre-Christmas funk by reading a Christmas-themed book and sharing a few childhood Christmas pictures with all of my dear readers - and, of course, I managed to find time to watch some children's Christmas specials (because being 30 years-old doesn't mean I can't still watch A Charlie Brown Christmas. You're never too old for Charlie Brown.)

Just in case you haven't already seen enough of the hideous plaid couch from my childhood (which lives in my nightmares), here's a picture of me from when I was still at a respectable age for watching Charlie Brown. I've always enjoyed this picture because I think it looks like I'm pleading with Santa to give me presents, Please Santa, give me toys. I've been a very good child this year. . . well except for that time when I hit my brother because he wouldn't stop squeezing my hands in an effort to try to make them fall off.

And, so Alissa won't object to being left out of the first picture, a picture of just her. Well actually that's not entirely true, since she's sharing the picture with some one's legs (not sure whose) and the edges of Mom's feathered 80s hairdo, and of course her two best friends, Bert and Ernie. While my hardcore Laura Ingalls Wilder addiction was going on, Alissa was nursing an equally intense addiction with Bert and Ernie (as you can see by the look of pure joy on her face.)

Today's book, "Mr. Mole, a newcomer to the River Bank community, has happily forged friendships with Ratty, Badger, Otter, and Toad, with whom he expects to celebrate Christmas. But Mole is baffled when his invitations are met coolly. Soon, the reason is revealed: Toad Hall used to be the center of the community's festivities, but now the horrible Mrs. Ffleshe swoops in each year and ruins the holidays. Mole decides to launch a campaign to bring Christmas back to the River Bank. The ride is not smooth, of course, and before the happy ending, we see Toad fling himself into the river, Mole get caught by weasel hoodlums, and the most magnificent jailbreak in history. Quite appropriate for children as well as adults, this fourth sequel to Kenneth Grahame's Wind in the Willows is as delightful as its predecessors. The characters are well drawn, as the story perfectly demonstrates Mole's shy kindness, Toad's grandiosity, Ratty's resourcefulness, Otter's loyalty, and Badger's wisdom. With understated dialogue and endearing characters, this is a most pleasant celebration of the season."

Shallow Christmas-time thoughts:

  • A few months ago, I read The Wind in the Willows, so when I discovered that there was a Christmas version of the story I knew I had to read it for the blog. I imagined sitting down in front of the Christmas tree and having a cozy afternoon reading a delightful book. The reality looked more like me sitting as far away from the Christmas tree as I could get while still remaining in the house, and passing the afternoon being bored out of my mind because today's book lacked all of the warmth and charm of the original book. In fact, I encourage you to take a good long look at the front cover of the book dear readers - drink it up, soak it in, because it was the only charming part of the book. This led to some investigative research (which, in my life, roughly translates to: stuff I should have already realized by now but haven't because I have the attention span of a six-month-old child) and I discovered that today's book was not written by the author of the original. Sequels written by different authors never work (although I would be happy to be proven wrong, so if anyone knows of an example, please share.) I got so bored with today's book that mid-way through I started trying to replay a movie in my head to get through it (a technique that I quickly discovered only works with bad movies, never with bad books.)

Favorite passage, "Be that as it may, Mole, Groat's telegraph concluded with these ominous words in reference to Mrs. Ffleshe: 'You will not find her in any way difficult or unpleasant provided you accede to her occasional whim and agree at once to opinions she may from time to time feel inclined to express with regard to your domestic arrangements, and upon three subjects in which she believes herself to be something of an expert: religion, politics and members of any sex other than her own, namely those who are of the male gender. On such issues I advise that silence is golden, and the virtue of turning the other cheek is to be practised." - Oh if only the entire book could have been filled with such gentle comedy, perhaps then I would have enjoyed today's book.