Reviews of children's and young adult books old and new

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Wolves Are Hungry

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken

"This story takes place in 1832-in a period of English history that never happened. Good King James III is on the Throne and the country is ravaged by wolves-and nowhere is their sinister presence felt more than in the woods surrounding Willoughby Chase, the home of Sir Willoughby and Lady Green, and their daughter Bonnie. But when Bonnie's dear parents go abroad leaving her in the care of the scheming Miss Slighcarp, she finds that the danger from the wolves is nothing compared to the threat posed by her new guardian." She will need the help of her cousin Sylvia, who was bought to Willoughby Chase to be Bonnie's companion while Sir Willoughby and Lady Green are away, to try and escape not only Miss Slighcarp's evil plans but from the wolves as well.

I saw the movie version of this book when I was a child and it scared me for years. For that reason I never wanted to read the book as a kid because I knew how much the movie had terrified me. I have read the book many times in the past few years and seen the movie again and I can only conclude that I was very easily scared as a child. This is a great book and I do not think it is too scary for any young readers. It is though filled with a lot of mystery and tension that does add to the overall feeling of sinister happenings. The story is excellently told and the reader is immediately pulled into this world where the fear of a wolf attack is what will keep you alive. Aiken builds the tension in the story steadily until you reach a point somewhere near the end when you will honestly not be able to put the book down because you will have to know what will happen to give you some peace of mind. For me the added bonus was the time period when it was set, I loved all things from the past from Little House on the Prairie to A Christmas Carol, if it was a time period where girls got to wear dresses all the time, I was ready to read about it. The characters that Aiken creates are a bit predictable in that the governess Miss Slighcarp seems to be evil and really is, but for a young reader I like having the predictable characters because at that age you need those constructs of good vs. evil to be very clear cut. When you get a little older it is easier to accept and understand that not everyone is all good or all bad. A deviation from this model though is the character of Bonnie. She is very spoiled and stubborn when we meet her in the beginning and yet we are meant to like her. Aiken very wisely created a character in Bonnie that challenges the reader a bit so that when you do decide you are on Bonnie's side you want her to succeed even more. Overall I highly recommend this book for girls ages 8-12, with a lot of adventure and danger this is not your typical period story.

Here is a link to a YouTube posting of the movie, it doesn't have the best picture quality but if you enjoyed the book it is fun to watch. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase

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