I'm almost embarrassed to admit how much I love "The Wind in the Willows." I'd seen a movie version, with Eric Idle, I think, and knew it was kind of cute--substituting little animals for middle-aged Edwardian gentlemen, with all their foibles. But the book is so much more. It's abslutely lovely on issues like the true meaning of good fellowship, wanderlust vs. the pleasures of home, decency, conceit, the beauty of nature, faddism, etc. The section on Rat and Mole submitting to the lure of Pan is beyond moving: it's just gorgeous.
As pointed out by another reviewer, Grahame's strength is not in his plotting. It's not clear why the police don't follow Toad to his family estate and just arrest him there for his various high crimes and misdemeanors, and the old fellow's final conversion to good sense is completely out of nowhere. But his bluster and beligerance are very funny , and his escapades, however unbelievable are always enjoyable.
It's important to note, though, that this book isn't really even for older children or young adults. It's more like Trollope than Baum (though it's much more rhapsodic than either). It will be most satisfying for the middle-aged or elderly, I think. I certainly wouldn't advise trying to read it to your kids: it's one of those books that sells each generation in children's book sections in spite of never actually being enjoyed (and probably rarely finished) by more than a small handful of kids. Descriptions of the effects of smells, underground architecture, and comforting provisions are not up most 8-year-old alleys, even if some children will find Toad's preposterous escape from prison (as a washerwoman) and several of the drawings funny. I'm glad, however, that the success of "Wind in the Willows" miraculously persists, even if this is largely due to its cache as "a classic." Because whether it's for kids or not, it's a wise and beautiful book.