Book Talk :: The Wolves of Willoughby Chase


This week, the goal is to catch up journaling about some of the books that we've read aloud this spring. (The goal is NOT to do the world's longest spring read-aloud post like I did last fall.) In April, we read The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken. The Reading to Know book club selected this as the May read, but we had a window in April and got a jump start on it early. We were all a fan of this little adventure.

This book is about two young girls - Bonnie, daughter of the very wealthy Sir and Lady Willoughby, and Sylvia, her orphaned and penniless cousin. Sylvia had been in the care of her Aunt Jane, an older woman, but her circumstances and health being what they are (poor), it is decided that Sylvia is to be sent to live with her well-to-do family in hopes that they can better provide for her and give her a good education. While these decisions are being made and carried out, Sir and Lady Willoughby are also packing for an extended ocean voyage because Lady Willoughby is in poor health. In the interim, a distant relative, Miss Slighcarp is to come and take charge of the house and girls. (Oh, beware those distant relatives that you haven't seen before and know little about!)

As one might guess, Miss Slighcarp is not all that she seems to be. She soon takes over the house, dismisses the staff, and makes plans to ship the girls off to "boarding school." The school is anything but ... the girls are forced to work in horrible conditions and given the bare minimum to eat and get by on. Sylvia and Bonnie are determined to figure out how to escape and get back home, and a good two-thirds of the story is devoted to this portion of the tale.

This book was well-received in our house! We had a hard time waiting to find out what happened to the girls. The world "wolves" in the title seemed to be somewhat misleading to me - yes, there were wolves in the story, but from their inclusion in the title, I expected a little more wolves to the tale. Also, worth noting, this book had fantastic vocabulary in it! A chapter didn't go by without being stopped multiple times to find out what certain words meant. (If I had had my act together, I would have a made a list, but that didn't dawn on me until we were practically done with the book). Words such as damper, malnutrition, providence, and chilblains are just a very few of the many examples in the book.

We highly recommend this - it would be a great summer time read-aloud. Perfect for a chapter or two in the evening to wind down with at the end of the day. Book two in this series, Black Hearts in Battersea, is on the short list of books that we hope to get to this summer ... but more about our summer read-alouds in a few days.

Other posts worth mentioning:
Carrie's post about the author, Joan Aiken
Her post about the book, where she talks some about the other books in the series

Linking this post up with Reading to Know's May wrap-up for our classics book club, and Read-Aloud Thursday at Hope is the Word later in the week.


  1. I loved it, too, and wish I'd done it as a read-aloud. Ah, well, there's time for that, too, right?

    1. Absolutely. I think it was last summer that I read it for myself so I had the head’s up that it was okay this year. I need to look at what’s left for the rest of the year and see if I need to preread anything!

  2. Some of these titles I'm just not sure if they'd go over well as a read-aloud. Glad I'm not the only one who regretted not doing so with this one! :D It makes me feel just a little bit better.

    The Wolves could have been so mysteriously interesting. I'm just working on the assumption that their presence is explained in the other books. In this case, I thought they got the story moving along and I was highly interested to find out what would happen with them. Anyway, it's a mystery for another day, apparently.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  3. I'm so glad y'all liked it, too, AND I'm glad I'm not the only one curious about the wolves! :) I've been searching my house high and low for my copy of Black Heart in Battersea, with no luck. I'm eager to see what 'part they play through the rest of the series, though.


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