Wicked wolves and a grim governess threaten Bonnie and her cousin Sylvia when Bonnie’s parents leave Willoughby Chase for a sea voyage. Left in the care of the cruel Miss Slighcarp, the girls can hardly believe what is happening to their once happy home. The servants are dismissed, the furniture is sold, and Bonnie and Sylvia are sent to a prison-like orphan school. It seems as if the endless hours of drudgery will never cease.
With the help of Simon the gooseboy and his flock, they escape. But how will they ever get Willoughby Chase free from the clutches of the evil Miss Slighcarp
I think that this is my favorite cover of the five books in this series. There is something so compelling about it. My specific book was the 50th anniversary Yearling issue, and the cover was originally copyrighted in 1962 by Edward Gorey. Which explains in part why I like it so much, because I often like Edward Gorey’s work.
The 50th anniversary printing also had a lovely introduction by the author’s daughter, Elizabeth Charloff, who writes:
From its dramatic opening, “It was dusk – winter dusk,” in the snowy, wolf-filled park of the great house of Willoughby Chase to its glorious and satisfying conclusion, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase sweeps readers into another world.
Joan Aiken was a prolific writer of children’s books, and came from a family steeped in literary talent. Her sister, Jane Aiken Hodge was a writer of romance and suspense novels and her father was poet Conrad Aiken. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase is the first entry into the world of Dido Twite, an alternative history Britain.
My thoughts on the book: I absolutely loved it. So far, it is tied with The Children of Green Knowe, and I prefer both of those to The Enchanted Castle. The historical setting is unique and interesting without being fantastical. There were plot elements that reminded me of Burnett’s A Little Princess, Harry Potter, and the books of Roald Dahl. There is a darkness to the book – the evil headmistress really is evil. Children really are treated with cruelty.
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase pretty much falls into what I like to call the plucky orphan type of children’s books, a storyline that is frequently seen in children’s – especially British children’s – literature. In this particular case, the kind and loving parents of Bonnie, the daughter at Willoughby Chase, disappear early in the book, and they are subjected to the not at all tender ministrations of the evil, mercenary guardian, Miss Slighcarp (who bears more than a passing resemblance to Miss Minchin. Or to Professor Umbridge). The book chronicles their escape from her clutches, and her ultimate vanquishment, which is highly satisfying.
I can’t believe that I had never heard of this book before I started this project, but I had not. It is a short, quick read at 181 pages, but is highly recommended. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and plan to work on tracking down the remainder of the series.