100 Chapter Books Project: The Wolves of Willoughby Chase

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken (1962) is #57 on the Top 100 list which means it obviously stuck with quite a few readers. I only recently started reading Aiken with the Armitage Family stories (I highly recommend the full collection — The Serial Garden) and was eager to keep exploring her work. This book is much darker that those other tales but still displays her special talent for tapping a range of emotions and for writing memorable characters.

What it’s about: Sylvia arrives at Willoughby Chase to live with her cousin Bonnie Green at just the wrong time. Bonnie’s parents are headed off on a sea voyage for her mother’s health and have invited a distant relative, Miss Slighcarp, to take care of the estate and to act as governess to the children. But the moment that the Greens leave, Miss Slighcarp’s real intentions come to light and the girls must find a way to save themselves and their home.

Age level: Grades 4-6

Best character: This has to be shared by some of the supporting characters — Pattern (maid), Simon (gooseboy), James (footman) and Dr. Field (doctor). They all come through when the girls need them with little or no chance of reward and considerable risk in some cases. They are all one-hundred percent brave and good.

Worst character: Well, there’s no question that this is Miss Slighcarp. There’s a scene where she comes into the room wearing Bonnie’s mother’s best gown that is particularly horrid. And the fact that she isn’t just satisfied with stealing money and plotting her relatives’ deaths but also has to dish out misery to dozens of random children is incredibly evil.

Verdict: Buy

There seem to be ten or eleven more books in the Wolves Chronicles. If you’ve read some or all of them, which would you recommend? I would love to keep exploring the series!

Z and I are still reading Goblet of Fire and I’m not sure we’ll be done in time for the next blog entry. It takes a long time to get through a 700+ page book while only reading 20 minutes a night (and taking a few nights off during vacation)! Luckily, I’ll be capable of writing about it anyway since this is a multi-time reread for me.

And, if you’ve noticed, the next two books after that are A Wrinkle in Time and When You Reach Me. Not only do they make a good paired read (the second is based on the first) but there’s also a graphic novel version of Wrinkle in case you are due for a reread but are also in the mood for something slightly different. And if you read them a little early (before the end of January), they can count toward the 2014 Sci-Fi Experience.

Schedule – January through April
note: dates are not necessarily set in stone – posts may go up a day or two before or after
January 31 – #98 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling (2000)
February 15 – #2 A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (1962)
February 28 – #11 When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead (2009)
March 15 – #35 Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume (1972)
March 31 – #60 Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis (1999)
April 15 –  #90 The Children of Green Knowe by L.M. Boston (1954)
April 30 – Spring Break!

14 thoughts on “100 Chapter Books Project: The Wolves of Willoughby Chase

  1. The next book ‘Black Hearts in Battersea’ takes you to London and introduces you to the incomparable Dido Twite. Any book that has Dido in it is worth reading although in general I think the series begins to falter after ‘Dido and Pa’ and ‘Is’. Can I also recommend her Mortimer the Raven books for younger children. I have had readers who were really struggling turn into avid bookworms over night as a result of reading those.

  2. I never cared about any of Joan Aiken’s other books apart from this one and the Arabel’s Raven books. But this one, I love so much. I wrote a post ages ago about how I have never been able to completely stop believing that wolves really do attack trains in remote countrysides. Aiken made it sound ever so plausible. :p

    (Also, my family loves to say “Cheese, Bonnie! Wonderful cheese!” We say that all. The. Time.)

    • Haha … cheese. :) And yes, I also think it’s likely now that wolves would attack trains. Luckily, it seems to just happen in England.

      And it sounds like I need to get the Raven books ASAP!

  3. I had read this book for the first time just a bit before I started blogging, and it was great fun to read it again. Somehow I missed that it was a series the first time around, so I’m seriously considering finding the next one from the library. The copy I got from the library had a marvelous Edward Gorey illustration on the front cover that set a wonderfully creepy tone for the whole book. Good stuff!

    • The Edward Gorey illustrations definitely set the perfect tone for the book. And I can’t wait until it’s time to reread this one. It’s got so much packed into such a short story!

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