The Wolves of Willoughby Chase
by Joan Aiken
* * * * * Stars (Amazing!)
Bonnie’s cousin Sylvia comes to live with her when Sylvia’s elderly aunt Jane feels she can no longer care for her properly. Bonnie’s own parents are leaving on a sea voyage – in an attempt to improve her mother’s health – and the girls are to be left in the care of a distant relative, Miss Slighcarp. As soon as the Willoughbys are sea bound, Miss Slighcarp shows her true colors. She and her accomplices are scheming to take over the Willoughby mansion and fortune, and the first thing she does is send the girls to a horrible boarding school/orphanage to get them out of the way. Bonnie and Sylvia soon escape with the help of their friend Simon, a young man who lives in a cave on the Willoughby’s grounds and raises geese. They travel to London, taking a couple of months to get there, where they are able to enlist the help of the Willoughbys’ lawyer as well as some other adults to set things right.
This is a fast, suspenseful read, and the girls face danger and injustice in the form of wolves and Miss Slighcarp (who is evil through and through). I have read this many times over the years and still find it thrilling and satisfying. I particularly like the idea of traveling in a warm, donkey-drawn cartful of geese, across the country (although, given the messiness of the geese I’ve encountered in real life, it probably isn’t as nice as it sounds). Both Bonnie and Sylvia are clever and resourceful girls, and readers will thoroughly enjoy their triumph over Miss Slighcarp.
Reviewed by YA Librarian