The Little Grey Men



The Little Grey Men

by BB

illustrated by Denys Watkins-Pitchford

Age: 8+

Interests: gnomes, little people, boats, travel, adventure, animals, nature, birds, country life, seasons

Eyre & Spottiswoode: 1942

289 pp. – 18 chapters

Next: the sequel – Down the Bright Stream

Also by this author: Brendon Chase, Bill Badger and the Pirates

Three gnome brothers – Baldmoney, Dodder and Sneezewort – decide to search for their more adventurous brother Cloudberry, who went upstream to find the source of the Folly Brook and never returned.

This lyrical ode to the wonders of nature is a leisurely read, meandering even, with a few close calls and dangerous misadventures thrown in for good measure. At first only Baldmoney and Sneezewort set out, as Dodder refuses to leave home, but he quickly follows after, as he can’t stand the loneliness. Birds and animals alike are friendly and helpful to the brothers, but they must keep an eye out for predators like the stoat and fox, and steer clear of humans. The threesome suffer a few serious setbacks, the first when their boat is sucked into the whirlpool of the mill’s wheel. In the Crow Wood they encounter a cruel giant – a nasty human being who kills woodland creatures for pleasure. The gnomes are instrumental in the defeat of the giant, only to become shipwrecked on a small island in the middle of a lake. Food runs out and the situation is dire indeed, when a child’s lost boat drifts in, allowing them to continue their expedition in high style. As winter approaches, a near-tragic encounter with a fox finally convinces them to turn around and head back without their missing brother. To their great surprise however, Cloudberry is waiting at home for them, and they have a great feast with all their animal friends.

In the same vein as Wind in the Willows, The Little Grey Men wends its patient way like the Folly Brook itself, its pages peppered with lovingly descriptive passages. The gnomes bicker like brothers, but show great resilience and determination when it’s called for. They may be ‘little people’, but they have no magical powers; everything the gnomes accomplish they do so through ingenuity and hard work.

BB was the pseudonym for Denys Watkins-Pitchford, who had a great love of the English countryside and wrote and illustrated many books for children, but The Little Grey Men is the most well-known. You can find out more about Denys Watkins-Pitchford and his legacy at the BB Society website.

(available at

Illustrations by Denys Watkins-Pitchford:

illustration_6 dodder_fishing 5 littlegreymen03 tailpiece



1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. writingmom2013
    Jun 10, 2014 @ 19:08:28

    Sounds like an interesting read. Wind in the Willows is my boyfriend’s favorite book; maybe he would like this read, too! Thanks for posting. đŸ™‚


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All writings posted here are © Kim Thompson, unless otherwise indicated. For all artwork on this site, copyright is retained by the artist.
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