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The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (The Wolves Chronicles #1)

4.07 of 5 stars 4.07  ·  rating details  ·  11,349 ratings  ·  698 reviews
After braving a treacherous journey, Sylvia joins her cousin Bonnie at Willoughby Chase where they narrowly avoid a gory lupine death. But with Bonnie's parents overseas, and the evil governess, Miss Slighcarp, left in charge, the cousins find their human predators even more threatening.
Hardcover, 160 pages
Published February 20th 1992 by Jonathan Cape (first published 1962)
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Dec 04, 2010 Mariel rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: angels with even filthier souls
Recommended to Mariel by: angels with filthy souls
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase is best read when young, or by those with the ability to tap into their inner girl.

I enjoyed the evil impostors who gleefully inflict child abuse. 'Wolves' is best read by kids who love to feel a bit of self-pity and delicious horror.
Bonnie is a bit of a simpering thing and there are lots of mentions of dresses and lace. I didn't care about that. My eyes tend to glaze over fripperies in real life too. (It feels like I'm the only person alive who doesn't notice if s
Stacey (prettybooks)
This post is part of the 2015 Classics Challenge.

WHEN I Discovered This Classic
I actually don't think I had heard of The Wolves of Willoughby Chase until I discovered the Vintage Children's Classics, my favourite series of children's classics – I just love the design and the selection of well-known and lesser-known classics! I bought I Capture the Castle in 2012 followed by The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, The Dark is Rising, Fly Away Home and Charlotte Sometimes in 2013.

WHY I Chose to Read It
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase is a lovely little children’s book with secret passages, an evil governess and a goose boy. I definitely recommend it to little girls who have a mind for adventure. I myself had a little trouble at first getting into it, simply because I’m just not the audience for this. But eventually the adventure took over and I wanted to find out what happens.

There’s a weird wackiness in the beginning, which made chuckle. Wolves jump up and attack the windows on a train. Bonni
"It was dusk -- winter dusk. Snow lay white and shining over the pleated hills, and icicles hung from the forest trees. Snow lay piled on the dark road across Willoughby Wold, but from dawn men had been clearing it with brooms and shovels. There were hundreds of them at work, wrapped in sacking because of the bitter cold, and keeping together in groups for fear of the wolves, made savage and reckless from hunger..."
I dare you not to go on reading after that.
I read this book over and over as a
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This is terrible but wonderful.

It's really a book that was published for young adults or kids, but published in 1962 so the idea of what constitutes entertaining literature for youngsters is really rather dated.

I think the author was more influenced by Edward Gorey and his odd, brilliant little books than she was by some of the other palpable influences, like Dickens and other masters of "waif literature."

It's the story of a rich little "waif" (so not a true waif, but she fits the archetypal mol
I read this book thinking, "I wish this had been around when I was younger..." Well, this is a foolish thought because the books were around when I was a child, and have been around for awhile.
Any books for children that feature a mixture of Georgian/Victorian society, a dash of wolves, loads of adventure, and little girls learning to stand on their own two solid feet has my love. I love that Bonnie is not only a plucky young girl, but also handy with a rifle (good against wolves!).
This story
Diane Lynn
Buddy read with Jeannette and Willow

Opening lines:

It was dusk-winter dusk. Snow lay white and shining over the pleated hills, and icicles hung from the forest trees.

I was hooked from the start. Two young girls go on quite an adventure when their situation goes from bad to worse. The girls are very resourceful and brave. They are helped by some very nice people, but then there are all those villains! Will the girls ever be able to escape the many wolves of Willoughby Chase?

I thought this was a ve
Carol Storm
Bonnie and Sylvia -- two little girls on a roller-coaster into the unknown!

This is one of those magical books that seems to be written for children, but is equally captivating for adults. There's just something about the dream-like setting, the dark, ironic humor, the warmly romantic friendship of the two girls, that makes you feel this is really a dream you're having as an adult of what childhood could have been like, scary and beautiful and fascinating, instead of being like most childhoods, s
Ashlee Willis
I grew up reading Joan Aiken. I discovered the Wolves Chronicles at my local library when I was about 8 or 9 and, though the series itself was already over 30 years old, I instantly fell in love with Aiken's cast of quirky characters and her wildly imaginative style. These books will be a part of me all my life, and I plan on reading them over and over.
Linda Cohen
I love this book. The start of a great series.

So I've picked this for my staff pick on heroes and I want to say that as far as heroes go "It takes a Village" because our two girls--Bonnie & Sylvia--get help in getting away from the baddies in the story (and there are lots of baddies) from all sides.

Starting back at Willoughby Chase with the servants who either hide (Pattern) from the evil guardian Miss Slighcarp when she fires all the staff or pretend to be evil (James) to be kept on.

PEI Public Library Service
If a voracious young reader (Grades 4-6) requested a funny, gothic adventure and didn't mind that it was published 1963, I would recommend Joan Aiken's The Wolves of Willoughby Chase.

Sylvia, a very well brought up young lady, travels through an alternate Victorian England, on way to a new home with her wealthy cousin, Bonnie Green of Willoughby Chase. The train is attacked by wolves, not unusual, but very frightening to Sylvia. On Sylvia's arrival, she learns that Bonnie's parents are leaving i
Joan Aiken's Wolves Chronicles are wildly inventive fantasies, set in an alternate England where the Stuarts remained on the throne, making the Hanoverians the rebels and conspirators, and where wolves still roam even in London. There are eleven of them in all (and won't be any more, since Aiken sadly died in January 2004), and I think of them in sets of two or three.

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase and Black Hearts in Battersea introduce many of the main characters in the series, chiefly Simon, a
For a while, I re-read this book once every summer, during the hottest, most humid months. I'm not sure how to categorize it, beyond children's book. I think the series as a whole appealed to me as a child because of the adventure and the strong female characters, especially Dido Twite, who does not appear until the next book.
Jackie "the Librarian"
Sep 21, 2007 Jackie "the Librarian" rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of gothic adventure
One of those stories where things get worse and worse and worse for the heroines - parents lost at sea, presumed dead; the new servants are revealed as evil schemers, and there is no where they can turn! How can they ever escape this horrible fate? Illustrated by Edward Gorey, to wonderful effect.
I remembered this as one of my favorite books as a kid. I checked it out to read with my 13 year old daughter who doesn't like to read much. We read it together and she loved it. It is a lot of fun.
First Second Books
This book has it all – kidnapping, secret passages, shipwrecks, orphans, violent death, fraud, a stolen inheritance, and best of all – wolves!
Simon Aldous
Wolves of Willoughby Chase is a gripping tale involving two girls, Bonnie and her cousin Sylvia, who are left in the hands of their governess Miss Slighcarp while Bonnie's parents go away on a restorative sea cruise.

In fact, Miss Slighcarp has fixed for the parents to travel on an unseaworthy ship, which soon sinks, while she rewrites their will in her favour, and dispatches the girls to a boarding-school-cum-workhouse, run by the evil Mrs Brisket.

Slighcarp and Brisket make two marvellous vill
Sarah Keliher
Though this book kicks off a much longer series, it can be read as a satisfying stand-alone novel, which is, in itself, sort of refreshing these days. It's a perfectly child-sized epic, hitting on all the nebulous things that scare kids the most - unreliable and possibly hostile adults, injustice, abandonment, and, of course, ravenous and impossibly crafty packs of wolves - as well as all the little details that make a story really and truly alive for young readers. I remember as a child being m ...more
I checked this out based on delphica's recent recommendation & its appearance on Locus' Greatest Young Adult Fantasy/Science Fiction list.

Written in 1962, the story hearkens back to the turn of the nineteenth century, being the adventures of two girls: wealthy tomboy Bonnie, and her poor, sickly orphan cousin, Sylvia who comes to Willoughby Chase to stay with Bonnie and her family. However, Sir Willoughby and his wife are about to travel abroad in the hopes of improving his wife's health. Th
I remember this very fondly from my childhood. The first several books of this series, before it became dragging on and on, were childhood favorites. I liked Black Hearts, the sequel, better than this one since it had more historical aspects to it.
This was one of my favorite books when I was 12 or 13 - it always reminds me so much of Jane Eyre, and I'm not sure if it's just because of similarities in the story or because I read them at the same time - probably both. I remember being completely intrigued by the idea of using a frozen river for travel; it's an image that has stuck with me for many years - to escape via frozen water. This book has everything appealing to the gothic-minded young girl - hidden passage-ways, thwarted notes for ...more
Melissa B.
I saw a lame-o movie version of this book at some point in my life, so I really don't know what possessed me to read it, but I'm so glad I did. The only problem now is, I don't know what order the rest of the books actually go in (I find conflicting lists constantly), and the other books are super hard to find, so I haven't made it through more than four of them. But great books, really. If you're looking for books for your kids to read, or books to read to your kids, or books for the kid in you ...more
Wow, I had the completely wrong idea about Joan Aiken. For some reason I thought she was some sort of female Gary Paulsen with austere 80s-y books about communing with wolves or some shit. (I think I might have conflated her with Jean M Auel and Jean Craighead George, whose books I have also not read, but do seem to fit that description somewhat better.) Imagine my surprise when Alex told me it was about crime and adventure and alternate histories and even the titular wolves are just ravenous en ...more
Rachael Eyre
I read this as part of my project to read as many classic children's books as possible, in preparation for my next book. I haven't the least doubt I'd have devoured it as a kid, and it still stands up to adult scrutiny.

Bonnie and Sylvia are one of those cousinly duos who, despite being like chalk and cheese (Bonnie is fiery and impetuous, Sylvia is shy and intelligent), take violently to each other. In fact, it reads more like a romance in some places; you can tell it was written in the Sixties,
Years ago I searched the Internet for this book when I could not find it at my parents' house. The entire series is worth your time; this is just the first. Aiken spins a real tale and doesn't spare the historical context. Because it doesn't talk down to kids or spare them violence, it stands the test of time. A bit Jane Eyre for me, which I love. Great English fiction for young and old alike.
Aug 08, 2008 Lauri rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: teachers looking for a read-aloud.
Recommended to Lauri by: Mrs. Adams
My Fourth Grade teacher read this aloud to our class and we would plead with her not to stop every day until she finished it. I read it to my Sixth Grade homeroom close to twelve years ago and they would plead with me not to stop as well. It's children's literature, of course, but it's a GREAT read-aloud. I've searched for copies recently and it's hard to find.
Celeste Ng
Everything a little girl wants in a book: a wicked governess, a best friend, forced poverty, a rescue, and a crushworthy literary character. This is the first book in the Wolves Chronicles, and although it's probably the weakest (and the least tied to the series) it's still worth a read.
This is the first book that I have devoured whole in quite awhile.

It's got orphans, dungeons, wicked governesses, boys who live in caves, and girls with beautiful dolls. All the ingredients for a proper short children's novel.
I remember loving this book. I think it was kind of scary. I don't remember much about the plot anymore, but I do remember LOVING it. I wouldn't shut up about it and tried to get all my friends to read it, which didn't work.
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Joan Delano Aiken was a much loved English writer who received the MBE for services to Children's Literature. Her most famous classic, THE WOLVES OF WILLOUGHBY CHASE,has been celebrating its 50th Anniversary with the publication of three brand new editions of the book and a new AUDIO recorded by her daughter Lizza.


More about Joan Aiken...

Other Books in the Series

The Wolves Chronicles (1 - 10 of 11 books)
  • Black Hearts in Battersea (The Wolves Chronicles, #2)
  • Nightbirds on Nantucket (The Wolves Chronicles, #3)
  • The Stolen Lake (The Wolves Chronicles, #4)
  • Dangerous Games (The Wolves Chronicles, #5)
  • The Cuckoo Tree (The Wolves Chronicles, #6)
  • Dido and Pa (The Wolves Chronicles, #7)
  • Is Underground (The Wolves Chronicles, #8)
  • Cold Shoulder Road (The Wolves Chronicles, #9)
  • Midwinter Nightingale (The Wolves Chronicles, #10)
  • The Witch of Clatteringshaws (The Wolves Chronicles, #11)
Black Hearts in Battersea (The Wolves Chronicles, #2) Nightbirds on Nantucket (The Wolves Chronicles, #3) Jane Fairfax Arabel's Raven (Arabel and Mortimer, #1) Midnight Is a Place

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“It was dusk - winter dusk. Snow lay white and shining over the pleated hills, and icicles hung from the forest trees. Snow lay piled on the dark road across Willoughby Wold, but from dawn men had been clearing it with brooms and shovels. There were hundreds of them at work, wrapped in sacking because of the bitter cold, and keeping together in groups for fear of the wolves, grown savage and reckless from hunger.” 2 likes
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