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.
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.