Shop Indie Bookstores
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, Joan Aiken, Doubleday & Company, 1962, 168 pp
THE SUNDAY FAMILY READ
I have read 10 novels by Joan Aiken. I love both her adult stories and the ones for children. She was born in East Sussex, England, in 1924, was the daughter of the poet Conrad Aiken, and died in 2004. She wrote her first novel, The Kingdom and the Cave, when she was 17 and continued to write for her entire life. She portrays children in wondrous ways, similar to Elizabeth Goudge but with magic and supernatural elements instead of religious ones.
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase is the first in her 11 book series The Wolves Chronicles. The series is set in an alternative history of Britain, but not knowing British history well myself, that barely matters to me. What I love are the children and the story.
Two girls, one rich and exuberant, the other poor but wise, are cousins who have more exciting adventures daily than most girls have yearly. Dangers barely escaped, cruel adults outwitted, loyalty and bravery, are the keys to the tale. The parents are not neglectful, just rather oblivious in their trust of servants and governesses, but also kind and generous. A rather feral boy, reminiscent of Spiller in The Borrowers series, is their champion.
This is breathless, page turning stuff intentionally created to thrill and entertain young readers and probably laid the ground for the best in children's literature today. It makes me happy that I still have dozens of her books left to read, including retellings of all six Jane Austen novels.
The Wolves Chronicles series would make a great holiday gift for enthusiastic female young readers.
(The Wolves of Willoughby Chase is available in paperback by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)