cover image The River Bank

The River Bank

Kij Johnson. Small Beer, $24 (200p) ISBN 978-1-61873-130-2

Anthropomorphized friends Mole, Water Rat, Badger, and the notorious Toad of Toad Hall are back in Johnson’s sequel to Kenneth Grahame’s 1908 children’s novel set in Edwardian England, The Wind in the Willows. When a young lady-mole named Beryl and her companion, Rabbit, move to the River Bank, they spark a series of comical misunderstandings and adventures. Johnson neatly captures the quaint whimsy of Grahame’s original book, complete with asides from the omniscient narrator (“The Mole took the kettle off and banked the fire—for he knew that one should never leave a fire unattended, and so ought you.”) She also does an excellent job of addressing issues of gender and class in Grahame’s original novel; Beryl, an “authoress” of successful murder mysteries, and her friend Rabbit, whose spirit of recklessness could put the Toad himself to shame, incite a flurry of anxieties. “I am sure they are very nice animals,” says the Mole, “but—females, you know. You know what they are like.... I don’t see why we need anyone else. We went along admirably enough without them.” The Mole may come to eat his words, and the adventures that expose the root of his assumptions are sparkling and witty without sacrificing narrative tension. This is a sequel that will hit the spot for Grahame fans, but isn’t afraid to build on his characters and fill in some gaps for a modern readership. (Sept.)