Purpose of this Blog...

You may have noticed that not all books are equal in capturing children's imaginations and in cultivating those innocent, tender souls. My goal is to help you find the ones that do!
(Painting by Mary Cassatt: "Mrs Cassatt Reading to her Grandchildren" -1888)

Sunday, January 22, 2012


I hope you'll consider the exciting children's novel The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, (published 1962) by Joan Aiken, for your next read aloud this winter.

Most of the action of this Gothic-era story takes place inside a grand English manor house, "Willoughby Chase" (oddly enough, the wolves are mainly in the background of the story); add a wicked governess, two cousins (a plucky rich girl and a penniless orphaned girl) and a kind country gooseboy, and you've got characters and drama that would rival any Frances Hodgsdon Burnett story (with some abusive Roald Dahl-style authority figures, Agatha Christie twists and turns, and a Charles Dickens prison-like-school thrown in)...can you resist that for a cold winter's night?

Young Bonnie and her cousin Sylvia are threatened not only by wolves, but by a new governess - their distant relative "Miss Slighcarp" - who is sent for when Bonnie's doting parents leave Willoughby Chase for a healthful sea voyage.  Simon the gooseboy tries to help the girls escape the trials and misfortunes as things go from bad to unbearable, thanks to their grim governess.  But it's not all darkness and drear.  The cruel adults in the story are balanced by kind and caring ones and, in the end, good overcomes evil.

My niece and nephew recommended this book to me - I wish I'd read it as a child!  Your child will like it, especially if he or she enjoyed The Secret Garden, A Little Princess, Little Lord Fauntleroy,  James and the Giant Peach, Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, or Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events.  If you are the designated adult reader, you will like it if you enjoyed Jane Eyre, David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, or any of the Agatha Christie mysteries.

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase is the first in a series of books by Aiken. Click HERE to read more about Joan Aiken's 12 fantasy books that make up the Wolves of Willoughby Chase Chronicles. (Disclosure: I have not personally read the whole set.  The first book stands alone just fine). Ages 10 and up.


  1. I LOVED this book as a child - and teen, and still. It is not an exaggeration to say I've probably read it a hundred times. I think for me it was a reminder that there are good people among the bad, that better times will follow tough ones, and that even a child can be resourceful enough to survive, and even thrive, in the midst of evil and danger. (Not that my world contained even a small fraction of the difficulties those kids faced!)
    I identified more with the timid Sylvia than the plucky Bonnie, but even Sylvia proved up to some pretty difficult challenges, and that was heartening to me. Plus, the story was just plain fun and exciting, even after I knew the ending by heart.
    I've read the series, but this first one remains my favorite.

    1. Carol - Your enthusiasm mirrors exactly my niece's and newphew's. :) This is proof that good children's books have profound effects and influences that can stay with you all your life. (Especially if they're so good, they're enjoyed again and again!) I'm a bit envious that I don't have a childhood connection with this novel - but l still enjoyed it as an adult! And I agree with you about Syliva - her personality reminded me of Little Women's "Beth". Tried to stay brave all the way through.

  2. Wendy. It hasn't been an extremely cold winter in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area, but I'm sure this story will read just as well in warmer weather. Can't wait to give it a try.

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  3. We recently read The Wolves of Willoughby Chase and LOVED it. (I read it aloud to my two girls, ages 8 & 10.) We just started Black Seas of Batterseas, the second book in the series. That book focuses on Simon. We are enjoying it so far. I love your blog!

    1. Thank you, Elaine. Your girls are the perfect ages for the series!