As a child, I loved reading about animals, first in picture books and later in novels. My first picture books were the stories of Beatrix Potter, with their lovely watercolour pictures of animal characters such as Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddleduck. Then there were the delightfully whimsical Winnie the Pooh stories by A.A.Milne. When I moved on to full-length books, one of the first that I read was The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. I loved following the adventures of shy Mole, adventurous Ratty, the gentlemanly Badger, and foolish, boastful Mr Toad who, like Pooh and his friends, were brought to life so vividly by E.H. Shepard’s illustrations.
Many years later, when I started researching my family history, I discovered that my grandfather, Leslie Clode, had worked with Kenneth Grahame at the Bank of England, and that another ancestor once ran a silent film company in partnership with A.A.Milne. Perhaps it is my family connection to these Golden Age children’s authors that ensured that animals play an important role in all the books in the Eye Spy series: the two dogs – Rockerfeller and Kiki – in Eye Spy; Boss Cat in Haunted; and Queenie the snake in Lady in Red.
There is now a modern successor to A.A.Milne and Kenneth Grahame: The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackay. This lovely book, which is both written and illustrated by the author, is full of thoughtful wisdom, and enchanting hand-drawn pictures. If you are looking for a beautiful and thought-provoking birthday present to read with your child or grandchild, look no further.