Best known for the classic children tales, such as The Wind in the Willows and The Reluctant Dragon, Kenneth Grahame was born in Edinburgh on March 8, 1859, to Cunningham Grahame, a lawyer, and Bessie Grahame. Shortly after Grahame's fifth birthday, his mother died of scarlet fever. Devastated by his loss, the father spiralled into alcoholism, losing the capacity to raise his four children. Grahame and his siblings moved in with their grandmother at her home in Cookham Dean, Berkshire. The stately country house, the spacious gardens and orchards were the perfect setting for his future creativity as a writer.
Grahame attended St. Edward's in Oxford. Although a brilliant student, he did not continue with university education. In 1879, he obtained a position with the Bank of England as a gentleman clerk. He started writing, submitting articles and stories to various magazines. In 1895, he published to critical acclaim a collection of short stories, The Golden Age, followed by its sequel, Dream Days (1898), which contained his most famous tale, The Reluctant Dragon
In the same year, he was appointed secretary of the Bank of England. One year later, he married Elspeth Thomson, with whom he had a son, Alastair. He was born with several disabilities, including blindness in one eye. When Alastair was a young boy, his father invented bedtime stories about a toad to soothe him to sleep. Within a few years, Grahame had written several stories for his son, adding the characters of Mole, Rat and Badger. He then compiled his stories into The Wind in the Willows. The book was published in October 1908. It was a commercial success, praised even by President Theodore Roosevelt, who requested to meet Grahame during a 1910 visit to Oxford.
Grahame retired from the bank in 1908, and the family moved to the countryside in Blewbury. After having suffered a troubled adolescence, on May 7, 1920, Alastair was found dead by the railway tracks near Oxford. Although the official records described the death as accidental, many signs pointed to suicide. Following the funeral, Grahame and his wife took an extended vacation in Italy. During these years, Grahame wrote very little. He died at his home in Pangbourne, near Oxford, on July 6, 1932, and was buried in the same grave as his son, Alastair.