Bill Badger and the ‘Wandering Wind’ is the re-publication of one of a series of anthropomorphic books written in the 1950s by B.B., a pseudonym for the author and illustrator Denys Watkins-Pitchford.
This book narrates how Bill, bored with his lonely bachelor existence, restores a canal boat in intricate detail with his friend Matty McVole and then sails a cargo of conkers along the canal. But trouble waits around the corner, as Bill is also taking Matty’s gold sovereigns to the bank. In a swashbuckling adventure, Big Ginger and his band of fierce robber cats seize the boat, take Bill and his new hedgehog friend Izzybizzy captive, and steal the gold. When they are defeated, Bill and Izzybizzy become heroes, setting up a canal transport business with their reward money.
The language of the book is very rich in alliteration, simile and metaphor, but I was left wondering how accessible the comparisons would be to a contemporary reader. The book is rooted in a bygone age when potting sheds smelt of onions, ginger beer came in stone jars and ‘fallow deer browsed under the spreading boughs’ of the golden trees. Much of the language is archaic (for example, would today’s readers know what luncheon is?) and the pace of the narrative, where the day lingers gently over fishing conversations, is slow by modern standards.
That said, the story encompasses the universal themes of good overcoming evil, friendship and the dangers of the wide world beyond the safety of home. As such, it will hold appeal to those who enjoy anthropomorphic adventure stories.