The River Bank

Kij Johnson  - published September 2017

paper over boards · 208 pages · 9781618731302 | ebook · 9781618731319

  • Washington Post Notable Books
    “A charming and funny sequel to Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows.
  • Seattle Times Noteworthy Books of 2017
    “A sequel to children’s classic The Wind in the Willows as enchanting as the original, this feminist take on Toad, Water Rat, et al., introduces us to Beryl, a ‘young lady mole’ who’s also a novelist, and her best friend, Rabbit.”
  • NPR Best Books of 2017
    “A beautiful, pitch-perfect sequel to Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows, with characters original to Kij Johnson and spot illustrations by Kathleen Jennings.”

In this delightful dive into the bygone world of Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows staunch Mole, sociable Water Rat, severe Badger, and troublesome and ebullient Toad of Toad Hall are joined by a young mole lady, Beryl, and her dear friend, Rabbit. There are adventures, a double kidnapping, lost letters, a series of sensational novels, two (threatened) marriages, and family secrets.

The River Bank has color endpapers, chapter illustrations, and more than 40 incidental illustrations by award-winning artist Kathleen Jennings.


Kij Johnson in the Guardian: Writing women into The Wind in the Willows revitalises the canon

The University of Kansas: A creative critical response to absence of women in classics

Table of Contents

New Arrivals
Tea at Toad Hall
A Regrettable Consequence
The Dustley Turismo X
Water Lilies
A Den of Thieves
Mole and Beryl
Cribbed, Cabined, and Confined
Return to the River Bank
Author’s Note


“If you’re going to write a sequel to one of the most beloved children’s books of all time, you’ll need to be pitch perfect, hit all the right notes and, at its end, leave your reader shouting ‘Bravo!’ Or in this case, ‘Brava!’ and ‘Encore!’ Kij Johnson has brought out an absolutely delightful book, as charming and funny and rereadable as Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows itself.”
— Michael Dirda, Washington Post

“I was never less than delighted with this book. From beginning to end, it thoroughly charmed and engaged me, speaking the native literary language of my childhood. Like a river, it is in places languid and broad, in others narrow and rushing, the story spilling over sharp rocks of incident before pooling in afternoon sunshine, smelling of lilies and mud. I loved the sweetness of its pace, which spoke of a deep, abiding love not so much for the source material’s specific contents as their tone: a wistful, enchanted melancholy that walks hand in hand with summer’s end.
There are passages here that I treasure, that take up the timbre of Kenneth Grahame’s voice to speak of new things that feel timeless: the joys and pains of being an author at work; the changeability of a summer’s day from possibility to exhaustion; the quiet loneliness of a home half-dwelt in, a home asleep until woken by occupation, activity, presence. Sentences like “an animal lives in the long now of the world.” So much of this book dwells deeply in that long now.
In addition to its many native felicities, the text is embellished by Kathleen Jennings’ beautiful incidental illustrations, grace notes sounded in E. H. Shepard’s mode with a line reminiscent of Beatrix Potter and a sensibility all Jennings’ own.”
— Amal El-Mohtar, NPR

“The prose is delightful, matching Grahame’s as it does but with Johnson’s own unique sense of humor and scenery—and, given that Beryl is herself a writer, it often has a clever self-referential quality that I found charming. The illustrations scattered throughout also add to the sense of place and time Johnson has constructed with this return/revision. It’s a different kind of project than I expected but I can’t say I’m at all disappointed. I wouldn’t have thought I needed a sequel to The Wind in the Willows, but Johnson has done a fine job here by making me realize I wanted one and delivering it all at the same time.”
— Brit Mandelo,

“The familiar figures of Mole, Water Rat, Badger, Mouse, and of course Toad are here, but the story opens with two new figures, a young mole lady named Beryl and her companion the Rabbit, an impressionable young woman described by Mouse as ‘‘right flighty,’’ moving into Sunflower Cottage on the River Bank. Beryl is a successful ‘‘Authoress’’ of potboiling adventure novels, and while Johnson has a good time giving us hints of these novels and of Beryl’s own writing process, her real significance is that she is not only one of the first female characters to move into the village, but one of the first who actually has a clear occupation. Both she and Rabbit are welcomed by the locals, although Mole himself seems oddly reticent to have any dealings with her, for reasons that become clear much later. Most of these residents are familiar in their dispositions, although Toad may if anything be a bit darker and more reckless and impulsive than in Grahame. One of the more intriguing aspects of The Wind in the Willows, maybe especially for SF readers, was the satirical manner in which it introduced technology into the world of the animal fable, and Toad’s famous passion for motorcars is here supplanted by an equally voracious and hilarious lust for the new motorcycles, after he sees a messenger riding one. That, of course, leads to the series of disasters – and attempted interventions on the part of Toad’s friends – that make up Johnson’s fast-moving plot. . . . The delicate balance of challenging the assumptions of a beloved classic while retaining the oracular charm of that classic seems almost effortless in Johnson’s hands, but it’s more of an achievement than it might at first seem.”
— Gary K. Wolfe, Locus

“Critics might say that The River Bank overly focuses on the two female characters, and that may be so. However, their presence brings a new flavor to the Wind of the Willows world, one that I was unaware was missing when I read it as a child. There are Victorian elements that are more pronounced with Beryl and Rabbit’s presence, and yes, even feminist elements with the enterprising Rabbit solving problems in a most female way. I can’t think of a better way to bridge the world of Mole and the River Rat to readers in this day and age.”
— Lashawn M. Wanak, Lightspeed

“It’s a lovely homage to a story she loved as a child. I should also note that Kathleen Jennings’s art is effective throughout, reminiscent of Shepherd’s work . . . Johnson has done a terrific job with this material.”
— Charles de Lint, F&SF

“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.”
Publishers Weekly

“Johnson’s attention to world-building and characterization create an engaging read with modern appeal while maintaining the aesthetic of the original. It also works as a stand-alone for new readers, though references to events covered in the first book are sprinkled throughout. Black-and-white line spot art and full-page spreads add to the nostalgic feel.”
School Library Journal

Praise for Kij Johnson’s writing:

“Johnson’s language is beautiful, her descriptions of setting visceral, and her characters compellingly drawn. These 18 tales, most collected from Johnson’s magazine publications, are sometimes off-putting, sometimes funny, and always thought provoking.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Ursula K. Le Guin comes immediately to mind when you turn the pages of Kij Johnson’s first book of short stories, her debut collection is that impressive. The title piece has that wonderful power we hope for in all fiction we read, the surprising imaginative leap that takes us to recognize the marvelous in the everyday.” —Alan Cheuse, NPR

“Kij Johnson has a singular vision and I’m going to be borrowing (stealing) from her.” —Sherman Alexie

The Fox Woman immediately sets the author in the front rank of today’s novelists.” —Lloyd Alexander

“When she’s at her best, the small emotional moments are as likely to linger in your memory as the fantastic imagery. Johnson would fit quite comfortably on a shelf with Karen Russell, Erin Morgenstern and others who hover in the simultaneous state of being both “literary” and “fantasy” writers.” —Shelf Awareness


9/12, Raven Bookstore, Lawrence, KS
10/14, 1 p.m., Uncle Hugo’s Bookstore, Minneapolis, MN
11/20, 7 p.m., Powell’s Books at Cedar Hills Crossing, 3415 SW Cedar Hills Blvd., Beaverton, OR
11/21, 7 p.m., Elliot Bay Book Co., 1521 Tenth Ave., Seattle, WA
1/5/18, 3 p.m. Brazos Bookstore, Houston, TX

About the Author

Kij Johnson has won the Sturgeon, World Fantasy, Hugo, and Nebula awards for her stories which were collected in At the Mouth of the River of Bees. She is the author of three previous novels and has taught writing and has worked at Tor, Dark Horse, Microsoft, and Real Networks. She has run bookstores, worked as a radio announcer and engineer, edited cryptic crosswords, and waitressed in a strip bar. She is an Assistant Professor in the English department at the University Kansas.

About the Illustrator

Kathleen Jennings (@tanaudel) was raised on fairytales in western Queensland. She trained as a lawyer and filled the margins of her notes with pen and ink illustrations. She has been nominated for the World Fantasy award and has received several Ditmar Awards. She lives in Brisbane, Australia.