Kenneth Grahame's status as a classic children's author rather obscures the fact that he's also one of the great masters of English prose. I've been reading The Golden Age and Dream Days and will almost certainly have to move on to a re-read of The Wind in the Willows. The earlier books have been put in the shade by the acknowledged masterpiece but they have everything it has- apart from talking animals- with the bonus of a deep and subtle understanding of children and how they think and act. The writing itself is a joy- effortlessly sliding up and down the registers- taking in everything from the witty and mock-heroic to a visionary strain that has me thinking of Traherne. Grahame was a Yellow Book man, and there's a touch of the fin de siècle about his style; no doubt he'd read his Pater and his Yeats and his Wilde- but unlike those guys he never seems to labour at his effects. The sentences flow freely, with touches of the demotic and conversational to keep them earthed. Whatever he attempts he succeeds at.
He was a natural: he wrote the Wind in the Willows as a series of letters to his son, for heaven's sake! How odd then that he wrote so little. If you exclude the occasional writings, the introductions to other people's books and suchlike, he has a mere four books to his credit. But what books!