I loved Wind in the Willows growing up – even if it was 80 years old already by then. I was really excited to see this “sequel” and couldn’t wait to dive into reading it. Return to the Willows contains all the same great characters that appear in Wind in the Willows, plus some extras. Toad is still a walking (or hopping) disaster, Ratty and Mole are still spending the days on the river and Badger is as gruff as ever.
In this new adventure, Toad has a hot air balloon, which he crashes and then it blows away. Well, in a series of events, the weasels have gotten hold of the balloon and are determined to get it fixed and claim it as their own. In the process, the weasels kidnap Toad’s nephew, Humphrey, to repair the balloon. Toad and friends now need to rescue Humphrey before something awful happens to him while in the clutches of the weasels.
Sticking very close to the feel of the original work, Return to the Willows was a fun read. Unfortunately, it didn’t stay consistently fun for me. The first part of the book felt a little chunky and didn’t flow well with the later parts rescue story. I felt the first half of the entire book was easy to put aside from something more entertaining.
Some of the ease at which I had putting this book aside might be due to the footnotes. I didn’t like them. I felt they were distracting from the story and many of the things they felt needed clarified, didn’t need clarified. Also, they were a bit snide – if an emotion can be expressed through just words, I think it was in some of the footnotes. I stopped reading the footnotes entirely halfway through the book so that I could settle into just reading the story of Toad and friends. The footnotes were just too distracting and didn’t carry the same fun feel as the writing in the novel.
The illustrations look like they are going to be a lot of fun and I think the number of illustrations was similar to what can be found in the Wind in the Willows so I didn't have problems with them. The artwork style is different but I think Clint Young managed to do a good job bringing the characters of this book to life.
While this book contains some of the feel of the Wind in the Willows, I do have to wonder how much today’s reader is going to enjoy it. The language is slightly antiquated and the characters at times are a little stuffy. If the current 8-12 year old reader enjoys Wind in the Willows, this book is one you can’t pass up – it is a well-done sequel but it has some issues. 3 Stars.