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British writer and author of the children’s classic Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame (1859-1932), was in kinship care as a child. 

Kenneth Grahame was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, the third of four children. In 1864, his mother died after giving birth to the youngest boy and his father sent the four children to live in Berkshire, England, with their maternal grandmother who is described as “cold” and “forbidding“. Apart from one brief attempt to live together, Kenneth never saw his father again. 

One positive thing that came from living with his grandmother was fond memories of his grandmother’s country house, the Mount, which was close to the river Thames. Here, Grahame’s ideas for riverbank stories were born.  

Seeking comfort from the loss of both parents, the small boy:

…turned to the Thames, surrounded by willows at the bottom of the garden. In later years his nostalgia for this setting, as he knew it between the ages of five and seven (when they moved away), lies behind The Wind in the Willows (Gordon). 

Grahame attended a local school in Oxford and, not being able to afford to go to university, was apprenticed as a ‘gentleman clerk’ for the Bank of England. His keen intellect meant he quickly rose up the ranks at the bank whilst composing stories in his spare time. Compilations of these stories were published in 1895 and 1898.

Wind in the Willows—which came from stories he told his only child, Alastair—followed in 1908, and was popularised when it was adapted for the stage (1929). The book has since been adapted many times for stage, film, radio and television, and in 2003 was listed as the sixteenth most popular novel in the BBC’s Big Read survey.


Cart, Michael. “The Man in the Willows: The Life of Kenneth Grahame.” Booklist, vol. 115, no. 9-10(2019): p. 30. 

Gordon, Lyndall. “Dark-hearted dreamer: the double life of Kenneth Grahame”. New Statesman America, 7 November 2018. 

Hughes, Kathryn. “The Making of the Wind in the Willows review – Toad, Ratty and a manifesto for gay living”. The Guardian, 28 March 2018. 

“Kenneth Grahame British Author”. Encyclopaedia Britannica. 

Simmons, John. “Kenneth Grahame: The Scot who created the vision of English childhood”. The Scotsman, 19 December 2018. 

Image available here.