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When the Wind Blows

When The Wind Blows

Submitter: It is a book about the atomic bomb, and trying to survive it. It is British, with British slang, and I think not even some adults in America could understand some of the slang (at least one of our shelvers didn’t know the meaning of “ duck,” “ducks,” or “duckies” in British slang. -Funny thing- at one point the guy says “Blimey” and his wife scolds him for language). Not knocking the British, but not the best book to have in an American small rural community college. The Ruskies are the bad guys (and very stereotypical imagery too, including stereotypical imagery for major WWII people).

Secondly it is all about this retired couple that remembers WWII, and is comparing repeatedly (sometimes with fondness) what it was like during WWII, against the current situation. Also the couple repeatedly correct themselves with them thinking it is WWII all over and getting their terms right.

The couple bickers A LOT, over the stupid stuff, and this book doesn’t seem to have a clear goal as to what the story is supposed to be. Other than show what thoughts happen during times like this, and to show them die? Not a very good plot line, in my opinion.

It has never been checked out, and was published in 1982…. and yet, for it not being checked out, is rather worn.

Holly: I know you can’t read the pages included (below), but you get the idea of its format. If it has never been checked out in 32 years, I think that’s reason enough to weed it!

More Bad History:

Atom Bomb

Break Out the Borscht

The End of the World

Better Red Than Dead

57 Responses to When the Wind Blows

  • This is the graphic novel version of a quite famous animated film.


    • *ahem* The film is based on the book, not vice versa.

      When the Wind Blows is indisputably a modern classic, and arguably Raymond Briggs’ magnum opus. It is a harrowing novel for adults.

      It is a very English book, and also a book very strongly of its time. I’d hate to think a library would consider weeding a book simply for those reasons.

  • Just because a book hasn’t been borrowed doesn’t mean it isn’t getting used. I would guess your copy is getting tatty from the number of times it has been taken off the shelf and read in the library.

    When the Wind Blows is a classic. Try reading the reviews.

    No, it doesn’t have a “clear goal”; it’s not an instruction manual. It is a heartbreaking and harrowing story of ordinary people trying to deal with the horrors of nuclear fallout – and of course there is no way to deal with nuclear fallout except to get ill and die.

    Not understanding that duckie is an endearment is not a good reason to weed a book, but if you have to get rid of it, put it in your book sale. It will be snaffled up by some grateful punter.

  • I should also point out the author is well known. Fungus the Bogeyman is a CLASSIC, one of my favourite books as a kid, which I still have and read to my little ones. When the Wind Blows was not intended for children. I agree it has no place in a small, American rural college library, so I’m not sure how it got there (recommendation from a faculty member?). I hope you have other books with British words so the American kids can learn to expand their vocabulary!

  • It is a classic! And a wonderful one at that. The blurbs on the back are a good indication of how highly it was regarded.

  • This was probably shelved with the art books instead of in fiction, where it probably belongs. Small libraries tend not to have a section for graphic novels intended for adults. This, obviously is one of them. It’s been read- move it to where it can be found, instead of hiding it with books full of art plates of 16th century artists.

  • I have to agree with the other commentators. As a Brit living in the USA I can tell you that this is a classic book. When it was written in the early 1980s the anti-nuclear weapons movement was in full swing in the UK (and Western Europe) and the book represents something of the zeitgeist of the time.

  • I’ve seen the animated version. I was moved to tears. The whole point of the story is that this couple followed the advise of these government issued pamphlets on what to do during a nuclear fallout. Unfortunately, the advise was useless for survival. In fact, most of the instructions were so it could be easier to find their bodies once they died. It made me sad when they said things like, “This is just like the Blitzkrieg, we’re tough, we can handle it.”

    I wish i could get my hands on the novel. It’s not available where I live. In fact, it’s on a list called “1000 comics to read before you die”.

  • Gosh I’ve been reading this great blog for years and this is the very first time I’ve disagreed with you! When the Wind Blows is awesome and a classic – it should not be weeded!

  • “I missed the point of the book entirely” is not a good reason to weed.

  • I’ve never heard of this one, but I’ve always enjoyed Maus, even as a kid (or especially as a kid). I’m curious if the submitter has that in the collection. I think it’s great for an “American small rural community college” to have things you might not expect!

  • It is really sad to me that this brilliant book hasn’t been checked out. Give it a read, it is a terrifying, sad and yet beautiful book about a couple trying to survive something the way they did back in WWII. Brilliant book and a brilliant writer.

    Also, his Father Christmas and Fungus the Bogeyman books are hysterical, check him out 🙂 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raymond_Briggs

  • I can understand the book possibly being out of place in a small US library, but Raymond Briggs is very well known in the UK, especially as the author and illustrator of The Snowman, Father Christmas, and Fungus the Bogeyman. I’d love to get my hands on a copy of When the Wind Blows as I’ve not heard of it before.

  • I’m betting 99% of the reason it doesn’t get checked out is because it’s a graphic novel. Despite the success of comic book movies like The Avengers, reading comics is still looked down upon. I get put down and even bullied quite a bit by male patrons between the ages of 30 and 40 when they find out I enjoy reading comic books. (Younger or older than that and they don’t really care. Women don’t say much. But that particular group enjoys treating me like utter crap because I’m 37, female, work in a library, and read comic books. Like if I’m some sort of traitor or serial killer.)

    • Wow! I’m 37, female, work in a library, and have had a completely different experience. I’ve never once felt bullied or put down by anyone in the 20+ years I’ve been reading comics and graphic novels. Most of the women my age either ask me to go with them to the movies and explain the characters, or ask me which character they should like so their sons will think they’re cool.

      The graphic novels in our adult section circulate quite well with both genders, and when Persepolis was selected for our city-wide read program a few years ago, the response was very positive. We did get a few people who complained that it was “just a comic,” but they were definitely in the minority and some of those people changed their minds after actually reading the book.

    • I’m 60 and I’ve never heard any negative stuff about reading comics . I’ve even gotten suggestions. 🙂

    • Well, I’m glad you had different experiences, but out here in my neck of SoCal comic books are still seen by certain groups as “only for little boys.” I’ve had parents apologize to me for their kids reading graphic novels. Especially if the child is a girl. To which I have to always say “So? I read comic books.” And from what I’ve seen on the internet on sites like Tumblr there is still very much a “Comic books are for little boys!” attitude. I see a lot of females of all ages getting harassing anonymous messages calling them names for reading comic books, saying they’re only into them cause Tom Hiddleson is “hot”, etc. And that comic book women are overly sexualized because comic books are just for males, not females, and we should stop whining.

      We have a lot of graphic novels and I’d like us to get more. Especially ones geared for adults like Miss Don’t Touch Me.

  • Sorry Holly but this is a classic from an award-winning illustrator. It is only awful in the sense that it graphically portrays the horrors of a nuclear attack. It was written partly in response to ridiculous manuals that we all had put though the door in the the 1980s – I still have mine, Planning for Disaster, dated 1982 which suggests on a page helpfully illustrated with a mushroom cloud that “the prudent householder endeavours to be prepared for these events by maintaining a good supply of first aid materials and by keeping to hand emergency items like a torch, some candles, matches and tinned food”. The couple are based on Briggs’ parents who lived through the bombings of the Second World War and their pathetic attempts to keep calm and carry on as they had before are very moving.

  • I saw the film with a friend in grade school. It terrified me. As I remember it, the adorable gram and gramps were the only ones left alive after his obsession with building a bomb shelter (that everyone made fun of him for) turned out to be horribly true. They were so vulnerable and alone. There was one scene where the gramps is trying to amuse his wife by doing a funny little vaudeville-like song and dance, and it’s very cute and your spirits lift a little, and then he smiles at her and his mouth is bloody because his teeth are falling out due to radiation. I’m shivering just thinking about it twenty-five years later.

  • Jesus. I’m a mess after reading the link with the film synopsis. This movie totally destroyed me when I saw it.

    As for the book, I can’t see that it would translate very well into a graphic novel format… maybe they were thinking along the lines of Spiegelman’s MAUS?

    • The book came first… I think Raymond Briggs wanted to reinforce the point that nuclear war is bad, and maybe also that sequential art can tell a story for adults. At least one later work of his seems to express a view that any war is bad.
      There’s an interview at http://hqinfo.blogspot.co.uk/2008/11/archive-raymond-briggs-where-wind-blows.html
      He also may have been in the happy position of having enough money to let his next project be to do whatever he liked. He says in the interview, “I thought that very few people would be interested in it apart from the peace move­ment.” But in another, he says that it took two years to do, so it’s a serious effort.
      The artwork is stylised, and the print is idiosyncratic, and there’s a lot of it. If you aren’t used to reading in this medium, it may take you a while.
      It’s set in England in the 1980s when there were people who remembered the Second World War and when there were nuclear missiles ready to be fired at anywhere in the world at a moment’s notice, which is still the case but for some reason people don’t worry about it so much now.
      But U.S. missiles are no longer based in England, on trucks, so, while this book explained what was going to happen some day, and it still could, it appears now that it won’t be happening there for that reason.
      Britain’s own nuclear missiles, which were made in America, are both on a submarine somewhere in the world, moving around and supposedly hidden. If Britain is destroyed then the submarines will follow sealed orders.
      If the book’s status as a work of art, foreign culture, or its message don’t suit your collection, then I guess you can let it go.

  • We’ve found that our graphic novels circulate a lot better now that we’ve broken them out into their own section, rather than having them shelved in the 741’s, so I’d be somewhat inclined to give that a try before discarding it. But graphic novels are definitely my blind spot when it comes to weeding; it’s so hard to let them go!

  • Yeah, I’m kinda surprised to see this one here. This is a bit of classic lit. (Also, the GN came before the movie.) 99.9% of the time I agree that the books posted here are incredibly weedable, but I have to disagree on this particular one.

  • I agree completely with Sei Paulson and Dishwasher Crab before me — this is a classic and with the rapidly accelerating interest in graphic novels, anything by the great Raymond Briggs is worth hanging onto until the binding comes apart. His work is not only art well-done, but social commentary.

  • Holly Hibner: “and trying to survive it” (SIC… and add the whole rest of the resume) What? You -painfully- missed the whole point. Such a beautiful and sad tale. And more amazing, you didn’t even know the animated classic from 1987.

    Dishwasher Crab: I can’t agree more.

    • Thank you Luis. My work as a librarian is done!

      • You guys know I’m not Submitter…right?? We don’t always agree with our Submitters here at ALB, but we do let them have their say. Sometimes we’re just after a good discussion. I’d still consider it for weeding it if it had zero circulations after 30 years, but I might try a display first. You’re right that there are “forevers,” though; items that you never, ever weed no matter what because they are important. This might well be a “forever” in many libraries. Sounds like it doesn’t work at Submitter’s library, though. An awful library book in one library can be a “forever” in another.

        • What Holly says – indeed, a debate is always a good thing. If anyone is considering a display a must-have would be that poster we all had on our walls back in the day. Google “gone with the wind reagan thatcher”. You’ll see that the prevailing opinion at the time was not anti Russian at all but anti our respective leaders! I’m guessing that the Submitter and some folk around here are too young to remember, but these were scary times. And yes, Threads was VERY upsetting. It is on YouTube if anyone wants to be upset….

        • I am the submitter, and I had A LOT to say when I submitted this email, but was cut for brevity. It took me 4 hours to read the whole thing (which honestly, I lamented loosing those hours staying late after work just to be able to know what I am talking about for the submission), and I did have a lot to say about the format, the illustrations, the ending, and so much more. I read the book before the blurbs on the back, and was real surprised that one children’s author I like actually liked this book (Jane Yolen).

          Please don’t misunderstand me when you think I missed the point of the book, because the rest wasn’t posted.

          My campus does not have any classes on graphic novels (nor do we have any collection shelved differently). Meaning that all circulating books are Library of Congress order, spine out, so for instance, our children’s fiction books -PZ call number- are IMHO horribly underused, because of this fact, and children’s non-fiction is basically unknown until it is time for weeding, since those are in their respective subjects, not amongst the PZ’s. I just used the kids books as an example, not saying that this was a kid’s book, or if it was, not a good audience picked for the book). And I am a champion of kid’s books, and wish more of the education students knew of the collection (my hope is that at some point in the vague future that will change).

          Furthermore, it was shelved in the sciences, and moreover I had no clue this was supposed to be a graphic novel, and IMHO was poorly done as a graphic novel. I have read a few graphic novels, but just don’t have the taste for them (however I am a fan of any movie or tv show of X-Men, and had followed the Anime of Case Closed for some time). The “graphic novel” part of the book (which the best pages are shown above) is just a few out of probably nearly 75-100 total pages. Most of the pages are like the pages in the second picture (first picture is the book blurbs). The text may be hard to read in the picture, it was still very hard to read in person.

          I was a toddler when this book was published, and none of the things that other commentors have said about those pamphlets was I aware of, it was never mentioned in any history class, nor any tv show I watch (and I love all the History channels and its sister stations).

          I never weeded the book because a college freshman didn’t know the slang, however I lamented it a little. I read a lot (and do like older British comedies) so I know at least more British slang than probably the average college freshman.

          Until my boss became the director around 2010, my library had never been weeded, it has been an uphill row to hoe with both of us tackling it (and it is only us two too, with about 30-40,000 titles in our collection). And I have only been here since October 2012, and we have probably weeded 3-4,000 since my hire date, and probably double that since his promotion to director. We are also weeding with purpose, not just because it is needed, but we can see on the horizon things are changing, and floor space will be needed (we may be going to a learning commons model in 2-4 years time, and we are still very much in the 20th century at my library currently, in many ways).

          • The Library of Congress catalogues it with other books on nuclear arms (where there are also such publications as “Homemaker’s manual of atomic defense”, 1951).

            It has 40 pages, not “75-100”.

            The second picture shows a classic graphic novel layout. No one expects librarians to like all genres of books, but in a college with (I presume) many young students, it would probably be useful to be aware of the growing popularity of this format, for both fiction and non-fiction.

          • Thank you, Submitter! You’re right – I did cut your submission a little bit for brevity. I’m glad you commented. I think the real point is that some books – even awesome ones! – don’t work in all libraries. Everyone has to do what is right for their own situation.

          • Don’t you have any classes that cover the Cold War era? I’d imagine it would be a useful resource for papers on that. Most college students these days were born after the fall of the Berlin Wall and can’t even imagine how terrifying it was.

            • there is one history course that may cover what you are asking and I have copied it below from the course description:

              HIST 2322 – World Civilizations II
              3 credit hours.
              Lecture/Lab/Clinical: Three hours of class each week.
              A survey of the social, political, economical, cultural, religious and intellectual history of the world from the 15th century to the present. The course examines major cultural regions of the world in Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, and Oceania and their global interactions over time. Themes include maritime exploration and transoceanic empires, nation/state formation and industrialization, imperialism, global conflicts and resolutions, and global economic integration. The course emphasizes the development, interaction and impact of global exchange.

              Now I do not know this class well enough to say if they get into the 20th century or later. The U.S. History and Texas History professors require their students to read an actual book for their reports. I am not aware if the same is true for World History (at least I have not had the droves of students asking for books dealing with World History, like I have had for U.S. History, or even Texas History).

              Besides, this would have been skipped over most likely since this was shelved in the sciences, and not in the history. Many of our history students just want to browse the history section to find the book they want.

              I did not understand how important this book was to some, until the overwhelming response that this posting has created.

              If we had a different shelving system, where instead of everything is by only Library of Congress Classification system, and we had special groupings (i.e. all children’s together, both fiction and non-fiction, etc.), that might have been enough of a clue to do more research than just pulling from the shelf, reading it, looking at condition, it is an odd book to have in the collection and doesn’t really fit the collection in any way that I am aware of, and that it had never circulated. It is my hope to at some point in the vague distant future to fix this problem, and would probably allow for more circulation for the books that would get missed now, but that would mean going through all of circulation by hand and earmarking the ones to get re-shelved and relocated. However before even that can be done, we would need a whole new shelving system, so at the earliest would have to be when the library actually gets renovated, and that is years down the road, and still don’t know to what extent the renovation will be, nor any real timeline as to when any of it will be done.

              I personally was never aware that this was a major issue in Great Britain, and so that lack of knowledge was to the detriment in the decision over whether to keep this book or not. I doubt that my director was aware of the issue as well.

              I was 7 or 8 when I watched the Berlin Wall fall on T.V. We probably have more students that were born after the Oklahoma City bombing than any students born around the time of the Berlin Wall falling. We may even have students that were born after the 9/11 attack (We do have dual credit high school students here, and Upward Bound is here over part of the summer). Is it just me, or does it seem like that was not that long ago, and yet most of the kids in K-12 schools were born after 9/11, or may have been too young to remember the event?

  • I wasn’t sure if the submitter was being humorous in saying “Other than show what thoughts happen during times like this, and to show them die” – yup, that will do it, that is the point. This is a very well-known book, and I agree it’s a classic. The Russians are bad because it’s a novel about the Cold War. No point in keeping it if it’s not circulating, of course, but it’s certainly not “awful”. By the way, how did the conversation about what “ducks” meant happen?

    • I asked our shelver if she knew what it meant. I think she saw me taking pictures of the book, and came over to see what I was doing. I can’t remember the details now, but she may have read that bit in the book.

    • Oh, and I was being serious when I submitted all of it.

  • So glad I wasn’t a voice crying in the wilderness here! I too am a massive fan of graphic novels/comics and so are many of the students in my school library. Maybe a connection here 😉 Briggs and in particular this book are currently being featured in the major exhibition Comics Unmasked at the British Library, should anyone here be paddling across the Pond ( I’m assuming I’m the token Brit!) in the next few months…

    • I went to this exhibition today. It was excellent and well worth a look for anybody in the area.

  • This book the reminds me of that 1980s British TV movie “Threads” that dramatizes life in England in the years following a nuclear bombing. Man, the Brits were a macabre people back in the day.

    • *gasp* I saw that one. It made “The Day After” look like a walk in the park. It was so depressing to see how things turned out years after the bomb went off. Children were born mentally disabled and the soil was contaminated so nothing could grow.

  • I’m really surprised this book made it to this blog. I watched the movie. It’s about a rural elderly couple going on about their daily lives while prepping for a nuclear war. The bomb goes off, and as the movie progressed, they slowly succumbed to radiation poisoning. It showed the uselessness and destruction of war in a rather beautifully done art style.

  • The Snowman meets Armageddon. Interesting. Well, Seuss wrote some adult tales, too, so I won’t judge this book without reading it. Sounds like it needs weeded; then it can find a nice home that’s not an academic library in 2014.

  • Maybe this is because I’m British, but I do regard this as a classic. It’s as much a sly dig about the then UK governments attitude to the idea that a nuclear war is survivable as an attack on the then USSR.

    Not an awful library book.

  • See also: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m6U9T3R3EQg

    To think, the last moments of our lives may have been accompanied by the dulcet tones of Patrick Allen.

  • The point really is that you’re watching an average, older, every day couple die. A couple that doesn’t really know about world politics, who are trying to just live their lives. The clash of nations is too big for them, they don’t understand what’s happening.

    It’s like On the Beach, or the movies The Day After or Threads.

    Unbelievably depressing. Good, important, depressing. I remember being a kid and wondering if I’d make it to adulthood, or if we’d all be wiped out before I was old enough to vote.

  • I’m Australian, and we know Raymond Briggs well here too. I just re-read this book recently – it’s so sad, and tender, and moving.
    I find it quite strange that someone in the US thinks it’s strange that Russians are portrayed as the bad guys – have you already forgotten the Cold War, the US guidelines about how to survive nuclear war, and the McCarthy era of anti-communism?
    The rest of the English-speaking world is quite used to trying to work out the meaning of American English terms – not just ‘slang’, but words that have quite different meanings in other parts of the world, or meanings for which we have quite different words. Sure, if you want your small rural college students to have no awareness of the rest of the world, and that the English spoken elsewhere – including in its homeland, England – can be different from the English they speak themselves, best to get rid of something they might have to think about a bit.

    • I am the submitter. I do not find it strange that the USSR was viewed as the bad guys during the Cold War. However, the elderly couple think fondly of Stalin (reminiscing about WWII).

      I know it is human nature to forget the bad about the past and remember the good, so I understand the reasoning why the elderly couple thought fondly of Stalin, and they WERE on our side during WWII, which still is understandable why the couple fondly remember him.

      I know of the McCarthy era, and how it totally ruined some peoples lives then, and the whole “duck and cover” from the 1950’s thinking you could survive an A bomb blast, and the ridiculousness of the idea if it were to happen.

      I never weeded the book because a student didn’t know the meaning of the slang. I was sadden by the fact, really.

      I had never heard of this author before.

      If the slang was in something else that was better format, etc. then I would have kept the book if it fit with our campus’s objectives, and literature classes at my campus are decreasing. We have only 1 full time English faculty that teaches lit. classes on a regular basis now. Our QEP is called “Write Smart.” College freshmen that are enrolling now are not up to par to be able to do college level writing, so we have over 1,700 students each semester taking English 101, with only 3 full time faculty, and the rest are adjunct faculty. English 102 doesn’t do lit. studies now, and when I took English 102 about 10 years ago at a different campus, we did do literature studies.

      We are trying our best to get these kids up to par with writing and research skills to do well enough in higher level courses.

      I am the reference and library instruction person at my campus, and this topic never comes up for research among the students. Hottest topics this past semester: bullying, student stress/coping with life’s other demands plus school, marajuana, abortion, and all the other usual controversial issues. Oh, and U.S. History books, for reports (almost all of our history professors require students to read a physical book, and is U.S. History pre or post 1877, depending on which class the student is in).

  • I agree with the majority of commenters: it’s a major cultural text in the UK, and there’s nothing wrong with Americans engaging with other cultures. Its central theme is the futility of civil defence, and therefore critique the political military structures which promote the idea of a ‘winnable’ nuclear exchange by turning the focus towards ordinary decent civilians. It’s also a beautiful piece of art.

  • In addition to everything in the other comments, I have to ask why unfamiliar slang would be a problem worth weeding a book for. If you can figure out “Throw some shrimp on the barbie,” you can figure out “ducks.”

    A simple google discovers that “Blimey!” is a contraction of “God blind me!” Back when people thought profanity referred to taking God’s name in vain rather than biologically descriptive Anglo-Saxon monosyllables it was, indeed, “language.”

  • I have been wanting to re-read this book for years but had no idea what it was called. I agree that shelving location might be a big reason why it hasn’t circulated. I know it from my intermediate school (no idea what the American version is, but this was for ages 11-12), but it was shelved with the kiddie picture books, probably because the librarian there had no idea where to put it either.

  • I’ll point out a simple Google also reveals that Raymond Briggs is a bit of a big name. I agree with the original poster that it doesn’t belong in this particular collection. But I still remain concerned that some of the reasoning for weeding is flawed (funny foreign words, strange story I didn’t understand).

  • A recent book that reminded me of this little masterpiece is Children of the dust, by Louise Lawrence.
    It starts off with the same scenario, nuclear war is coming, cover your windows with white sheets and crouch under a table and wait it through. Later, the few survivors try to rebuild, and there are conflicts between the rural farmers and the military from within mountain cave shelters. The first half is very sad, just like in the Briggs’ story, where people get radiation poisoning, and the little brother who doesn’t understand why the dog isn’t allowed indoors anymore.

    I was going to say things about Briggs’ story, but everybody else has done so already, and it is a wonderful and terribly sad book!

  • This is a very well regarded book by a well known author in the UK.
    There was a stage play of this graphic novel. It was in circulation when I was a student in the 1980s and was considered a shocking book that was criticising government policy and making people aware of what nuclear war would be like. It and a TV movie called Threads terrified me at the time.
    As for the slang, we in the UK are bombarded by American slang and your nasty burger chains too….!

  • It’s just a bit of a shock seeing it here, submitter. As if you go through the entries; awful book, awful book, awful book, Tom Sawyer, awful book …! And the comment was “Apparently this got some reviews.”
    I was just ruminating on the depiction of jolly old uncle Joe here two nights ago while watching Foyle’s War, thirty years on it’s still a defining work. Raymond Briggs holds a unique place in British culture and before people started talking of “graphic novels” if you were ask them for an example of what they thought it meant, odds are they’d point to this — or The Snowman.
    PS. No, I’m not British.

  • At one point, several years ago, I discovered we had this in the Easy Reader (preschool) section, simply because it was at first glance a “picture book”. I had it moved to the Adult section. We still don’t actually have a “graphic novel” section per se or I’d have sent it there.

  • This classic book doesnt belong here