Monday, December 5, 2011

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase

Title: The Wolves of Willoughby Chase
Category: Historical
Grades: 4-6
Author: Joan Aiken
Publisher: Delacorte
Date: 1962
Pages: 181

Wolves have always terrorized Willoughby Chase, but young Bonnie has grown used to them over the years.  Now, however, an entirely different kind of wolves threaten her beloved home in the form of her horrible governess, Miss Slighcarp, and her accomplice, Grimshaw.  When Bonnie’s parents leave on an extended vacation, Bonnie and Sylvia are left in Miss Slighcarp’s care.  Soon dumped into a dreadful, abusive home for orphans, and believing her parents dead, Bonnie finds a way to escape with Sylvia.  The goose boy, Simon, comes to their rescue, but Bonnie must find a way to expose the evil Miss Slighcarp’s plot if she is ever to return to her home.

Though the story is set in an alternate history of England, its plot and time period are reminiscent of Jane Eyre, albeit for children, while the children’s battle against villains like Miss Slighcarp and Mrs. Brisket will strike a chord with fans of Roald Dahl’s Matilda. While adults and older readers may find the book predictable and oversimplified, the targeted age will appreciate the children’s trials and eventual conquest over evil.  Indeed, younger children down to perhaps second grade would be likely to enjoy the story but the vocabulary is likely to require it to be shared as a read-aloud.  A little mystery, a little terror, and a lot of adventure combine to make Wolves an engaging and enjoyable read for intermediate students.


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