I first discovered Inga Moore by way of the illustrations she did for Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden and Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows, which she abridged as well as illustrated. I read and loved The Wind in the Willows as a child and was entranced and transported by it and in turn read it (and the quartet of books byWilliam Horwood that continues the stories of the residents of the Wild Wood and, while not as good as the original, does a fine job of keeping this realm alive for those who love it) to my daughter. I have to admit, as taken as I was with Moore's illustrations for this newest edition (the estimable Ernest Shepherd and Arthur Rackham have both illustrated The Wind in the Willows) I was skeptical about abridging the book. At the same time, I was very aware that it is a long book that might seem meandering and obtuse to some. In the interest of more people picking up The Wind in the Willows and reading it to their children, I am wholeheartedly endorsing Moore's version. Moore explains her approach in this interview and, for a truly ringing endorsement of Moore's abridgment and illsutrations, listen to Scott Simon and Daniel Pinkwater read from and discuss the book on NPR's show, Weekend Edition. Pinkwater says that Moore's version of The Wind in the Willows is one that your child will take to college with him/her. I don't doubt this. My husband and I met in college and we each had our childhood copies of The Wind in the Willows with us - mine the EH Shepard version and his the Rackham.
So, not only is Inga Moore a gifted illustrator, she is an astute writer who can skillfully abridge a classic of children's literature. Besides her work with classics, Moore has written and illustrated many picture books, including this favorite to many, Six Dinner Sid, about a stray cat who, unbeknownst to them, has six "owners." With A House in the Woods, Moore brings a bit of Grahame's Wild Wood to her own story with a mixture of forest and farm animals, wilderness and home comforts that make for a a lovely tale.
A House in the Woods begins with a pair of pigs who have made dens in the forest. While out exploring and finding nifty things like feathers and sticks, Bear and Moose makes themselves comfortable in the pigs' dens, which, unfortunately are not big enough to hold them. Left with nowhere to live, the four animals park themselves on a bench near a lamppost (yes, in the middle of the woods, which makes it fun) and think. They decided to build a big house and live together!Moose heads over to an old-fashioned telephone situated on a tree (insulators conveniently placed on a branch above) and rings up the Beavers to ask for their help. The team of Beaver Builders arrive and say that they wish "to be paid in peanut-butter sandwiches. No one had any objection." The building of the house takes up eight wonderful pages and includes my favorite passage in the book,
By lunchtime the walls of the house were up . . . and by dinnertime the roof was on. (The lunch and dinner times were on different days, of course. Beavers are fast, but not that fast."
When the house is finished the Beavers hand over a bill and "there was just enough time to get to the store . . . to buy the bread and the peanut-butter." Sandwiches are made and delivered to the Beavers' dam (which is actually that lovely little wood house on top of the pile of sticks in the distance.) The animals return to their new home where they enjoy a homemade dinner, a cup of tea and stories by the fire and a good night's sleep in their new beds.
I am a domestic sort, I know that about myself. I love a story where a home is made, warm drinks are enjoyed and cozy beds are part of the story. A House in the Woods has all of that with warm, leafy illustrations to match. The perfect bedtime story or anytime story!
Scroll down to enjoy more if Inga Moore's marvelous artwork
Titles in Candlewick's Illustrated Classic Series