HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: The Wolves of Willoughby Chase
Author: Joan Aiken
Illustrator: Pat Marriott
Publisher: Yearling, reprinted in 1987
Related website: http://www.joanaiken.com/pages/wolves_chronicles.html (author), http://www.randomhouse.com/kids (publisher)
Language level: 2
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Ages 8 – 12
Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Aiken, Joan. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (published in Great Britain in 1962 by Jonathan Cape Ltd., London, England, and in the United States in 1963 by Doubleday, New York City, NY; republished in 2012 by Yearling, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House Inc., New York City, NY). Young Bonnie Green lives with her parents, Sir Willoughby Green and his wife Lady Green, at Willoughby Chase, their home out on Willoughby Wold where wild wolves roam. Lady Green is very ill, so she and her husband are going on an ocean voyage for her health. \While they are gone, they have invited Bonnie’s cousin Sylvia from London to be her companion and asked a distant relative of Sir Willoughby’s, Miss Letitia Slighcarp, to be the girls’ governess. But after Mr. and Mrs. Green leave, strange things begin happening.
Word is received that the Greens’ ship has sunk. The girls see Miss Slighcarp burning what look like important papers in the library. All the servants are dismissed. The furniture is sold. And Bonnie and Sylvia, dressed in rags, are sent to a prisonlike school for orphans run by a Mrs. Brisket. With the help of Pattern the maid, James the footman, and Simon the gooseboy with his flock, they escape. But where can they go? What will happen to them? How can they free Willoughby Chase from the evil clutches of Miss Slighcarp? And will they ever see Bonnie’s parent’s again? This book, with its Gothic-like setting and Dickensian-type plot, has no bad language, except for the colloquial British term “damme” uttered a couple of times by Sir Willoughby.
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase is recommended by Nathaniel Bluedorn in Hand that Rocks the Cradle: 400 Classic Books for Children, who wrote, “This book is one of my mother’s favorites to read aloud. It is full of action, secret passageways, and villains.” I thoroughly enjoyed what many critics call a modern classic. It is Book #1 of “The Wolves Chronicles” series by author Joan Aiken (1924-2004). There are some twelve sequels (one is a “prequel”), and I have not read any of them, but one reviewer who purchased five other books in the series noted that they “focus on the increasingly unwieldy adventures of Dido Twite, a character introduced in the second book; Bonnie and Sylvia Green are never mentioned again.”