The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
What a quotable book! From the very beginning, the characters charm us:
"The Rat said nothing, but stooped and unfastened a rope and hauled on it; then lightly stepped into a little boat which the Mole had not observed. It was painted blue outside and white within, and was just the size for two animals; and the Mole's whole heart went out to it at once, even though he did yet fully understand its uses.
The Rat sculled smartly across and made fast. Then he held up his forepaw as the Mole stepped gingerly down. 'Lean on that!' he said. 'Now then, step lively!' and the Mole to his surprise and rapture found himself actually seated in the stern of a real boat.
'This has been a wonderful day!' said he, as the Rat shoved off and took to the sculls again. 'Do you know, I've never been in a boat all my life.'
'What?' cried the Rat, open-mouthed: 'Never been in a - you never - well, I - what have you been doing, then?'
'Is it so nice as all that?' asked the Mole shyly, though he was quite prepared to believe it as he leaned back in his seat and surveyed the cushions, the oars, the rowlocks, and all the fascinating fittings, and felt the boat sway lightly under him.
'Nice? It's the only thing,' said the Water Rat solemnly, as he leaned forward for his stroke. 'Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing - absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.'"
Also recommended: the 1996 movie version