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The Wind in the Islands, by Scott Ouderkirk

I was reading The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame for the umpteenth time, and all I could think about was that I wish he had written the book about the St. Lawrence River.

Editor’s Note

The Wind in the Islands is a book based on Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows. The Mole and the Rat have new adventures on the St. Lawrence River in the 1000 Islands area.

The adaptation is written and illustrated by Scott Ouderkirk.

Illustrations are images of stained glass panels created specifically for the book.

Join the author for the book launching party and show of the stained glass panels at Cornwall Brothers Museum in Alexandria Bay, New York on July 23rd, 2014 from 5-7pm.

The opening will include refreshments and some opportunities to win The Wind in the Islands-themed items.

Find more information on  Facebook, The Wind in the Islands page.


After doing some research, I found that the book has been illustrated numerous times and that there is even a version concerning when Toad’s house was taken over, from the stouts’ and weasels’ point of view. I also realized that the book is in the public domain, meaning that there are no copyright issues. I wondered if I could pull it off and make a version with the St. Lawrence River as the setting--I decide to try.

This project has grown and changed from the beginning when I started last fall. First I thought that I would make necessary changes to the original story to better reflect the animals and geography of the Thousand Islands, and then make stained glass panels to use as illustrations, concentrating on the artwork. As I got farther into the project, I found that I was writing more and more of my own chapters. This caused a problem of contrasting styles or voices of the two authors.

There are certain passages that I knew must be kept, for instance when the Rat talks about “messing about in boats,” but the history and richness of the St. Lawrence River demanded a story of its own. My wife, Mary Alice, helped me through this part with editing, suggestions and comments, along with a couple of other people who read chapters as I finished them. The stained glass panels were also part of the process. Often as I sketched the ideas for the illustrations, something I drew would drive the story in a new direction.

The result of this process is a story of friendship and a love of place. I know that there are scores of people who share my feelings about this river and the surrounding land, and I hope that I have succeeded in conveying these feelings. I know that each time I find a book that includes the St. Lawrence River, I am anxious to read it but often find that the river doesn’t play as prominent a role as I would’ve hoped.

I want to reclaim the feelings that I had the first time I read Of Time and an Island. I think that The Wind in the Islands is a book that will be enjoyed by both young and old readers and will touch on that love for the river that we all have. Along the way, the readers will enjoy the adventures of the animals as they explore the Thousand Islands and meet some of the people that created its history. I’ve included the chapter The Mole’s Dream and some panel detail images for illustrations from the book to whet your appetite for the rest of the story.

You can preorder the hardcover first edition of the book, which is limited to 500 copies, by following the instructions on the order form included with this article.

My stained glass studio, Scott Ouderkirk Studios at River Road Farm, is located at 291 River Road, Hammond, New York. Stop by for a visit, or visit me on the web at our The Wind in the Islands  facebook pages,  or Scott Ouderkirk Studios  or contact me directly at 607-377-1726 or to discuss a project of your own.


Chapter 12   The Mole’s Dream

The Mole felt exhausted as he fell back into the hammock outside the Rat’s home after spending the day in the skiff. He tried to stay awake but dozed off and then awoke with a twitch of his whole body. He fell asleep again quickly, this time soundly as he was carried into a dream.

The Mole’s dream was all in sepia tones—a world of browns with no other colors. He was surprised to realize that when something caught his attention—no matter how far away it was—it took only a few strokes of his oars, and he would be there.

Through the mist the Mole saw a boat with a crew of six rowers and a man sitting near the back leading them. Two strokes of his oars, and he was next to the boat. None of the men in the boat seemed to notice the Mole except the man at the back.


“Who or what are you, you scallywag?” said the man gruffly to the Mole.

”I am the Mole, and I am a Mole, to answer both of your questions. And who are you?”

“Everyone knows me. I am Bill Johnston, the pirate,” he said.

“This doesn’t seem like any pirate ship I have ever seen in pictures,” said the Mole.

“I’m between ships currently…I seem to have burned the last one,” said Johnston. “This is a gig, but we’re making do.”

“Do you have a hook, a wooden leg or maybe a parrot?” asked the Mole.

“You are one strange animal,” said Bill. “Do you see any of those things?”

The Mole reached out, checking Bill’s leg to see if it was wooden. When his hand reached the leg, it passed right through with no resistance. Bill was a ghost!

“What year is this?” asked the pirate.

“I don’t know what you mean by year,” said the Mole. “It’s summer.”

“I mean,” said Bill, “is it 1838 or 1839? Without a year, how do animals keep track of when something happened?”

“We tell time by seasons and keep track of the day by the sun,” explained the Mole.

“Probably a better way of doing things,” said the pirate. “We humans worry too much about the past and the future and not enough about what is happening right now.”

“Animals only know about right now,” said the Mole. “We can’t always count on there being a tomorrow.”

“Speaking of right now” said the pirate, “I need to do what pirates do and take over your ship and everything in it. Prepare to be boarded!”

“Ok,” said the Mole, “but be careful. The last time I tried standing up in a skiff, I ended up in the River.”

The pirate drew his sword, shoved aside one of his crew and took a step toward the Mole’s skiff. Stepping from the gunnel of his gig, he jumped into the skiff with both feet. Of course, being a ghost, he met with no resistance and went straight through to the River. The swift current carried him past the skiff, and his head popped back up a bit farther downriver. He began to struggle in the water because the truth is, he couldn’t swim. In fact, more pirates died by drowning than in sword fights!


The pirate’s crew rowed over to him and managed to bring him back into the gig. He looked quite dejected as he sat there soaking wet.


“Not much of a pirate, am I?” said Bill. “Can’t even commandeer the skiff of a small animal—and no booty either!”

“I wouldn’t worry too much about it,” said the Mole. “After all, you do have the River, a boat and your crew. That is more than most people have.”

“I am blessed, I guess,” said Bill, “although a little booty would be nice.”

“How about if you were to take—by force of course—this tin of sardines the Mink left in the skiff?” offered the Mole.

“That’s it, hand over that tin right now, you scallywag!” said Bill holding out his hand with a menacing look.

Playing along because he was feeling bad for Johnston, the Mole dropped the tin into the pirate’s hand. The tin went right through his hand, into the River and sank because Bill was, after all, a ghost.

The Mole’s eyes met Bill’s, one set full of pity and the other full of shame. Bill’s shoulders slumped, his head drooped and he seemed to shrink in size as he looked away from the Mole. Bill’s crew began rowing away into the looming fog; and the Mole sat thinking about how often things just don’t go the way one hopes.

Thunder boomed and lightning flashed off in the distance, miles away, as the wind came up and drove waves which rocked the skiff. Then, fat raindrops hit the Mole hard on the head, and he wondered which way was back home. He began rowing as it rained even harder, the lightning came closer, and the Mole was really getting wet. Suddenly he awoke and realized that he wasn’t in a skiff, but a hammock, and it really was raining, and he’d better get inside. He started to get out of the hammock but didn’t time his exit quite right with the rocking of the hammock and was tossed out of it. He ended up sitting on the ground, all wet; his shoulders slumped, and his head drooped, and he knew just how the pirate had felt when the sardines hit the water.

By Scott Ouderkirk, Scott Ouderkirk Studios, Hammond, NY.

Scott Ouderkirk is an artist, author and craftsman who has moved moved his studio to the River.  Scott is a graduate of SUNY Oswego (BS in Technical/Vocational Ed), Syracuse University (MA in illustration) & University of Hartford (MFA in illustration). His books include The Amish Secret, Fallen Heroes, Sunday Drive, The Adirondack Run, Island Images, Barns and Wind, Waves and Wispy Smoke. In 2010 Scott was a presenter at the American Glass Guild's national conference in Detroit, MI and at the Stained Glass Association of America's national conference in Syracuse, NY in 2011. He is also on the board of the American Glass Guild and the steering committee of RiverQuest. He was published in Wooden Boat January 2004 and was asked to write and illustrate the feature article for the Antique Boat Museum’s The Gazette Annual 2004.  Scott’s TI LIfe article, Life After Death for a Wooden Boat, was published in December 2013.

Editor’s Note: 

Thank you Scott, for making this wonderful project for the Thousand Islands, I say project, as it is far more than a new book.  Your artwork, the glass work and your creative work is a great gift to the region.

You may pre-order and you will receive a hard-cover, limited first edition book (500 copies) for just $40 which is $10 off list price.  Only pre-orders include a frame-able print and will be signed by Scott, with a drawing of one of the book’s characters and a personalized inscription.

In addition, pre-orders are eligible for a chance to win an original stained glass panel created for the book. Drawing to be held on the day of the opening party.

Please feel free to leave comments about this article using the form below. Comments are moderated and we do not accept comments that contain links. As per our privacy policy, your email address will not be shared and is inaccessible even to us. For general comments, please email the editor.


Heather Chitty
Comment by: Heather Chitty ( )
Left at: 3:00 PM Friday, July 11, 2014
This looks like a beautiful children's book and I can't wait to see it in print. Congratulations to you for bringing a new river story to the children of the area.