Introduced by Katherine Rundell
Illustrated by Bill Bragg
A charming edition of Joan Aiken’s much-loved children’s book.
‘The Wolves of Willoughby Chase may well be the most quietly influential children’s fantasy novel of its time’
The first title in Joan Aiken’s acclaimed Willoughby Chase saga, this atmospheric tale tells of cousins Bonnie and Sylvia Green, whose lives are torn apart when their new governess, the evil Miss Slighcarp, threatens to destroy or steal everything they love. Their adventures across a perilous, snow-bound land are brilliantly captured by Bill Bragg’s spirited illustrations. Children’s author Katherine Rundell has written a new introduction that gives fascinating insight into Aiken’s approach to writing for children.
‘Once in that court he had felt himself to be a word spoken by the sunlight. Now the darkness also had spoken: a word that could not be unsaid’
The story, set in 1832 in ‘a period of English history that never happened’, is filled with the things that beguile young readers: strong friendship, fearsome creatures, thrilling train rides, mysterious hidden tunnels, curious foodstuffs, and moments of bravery and wit. The wolves that stalk the land are unnaturally fierce, as are the sinister adults – Miss Slighcarp and her accomplices – that the girls must overcome. It is impossible not to feel affection for Aiken’s two small heroines, one boisterous, loving and fearless; the other a delicate and thoughtful worrier. Memorable too is Simon, Bonnie’s resourceful cave-dwelling friend, who Rundell aptly describes as ‘The Secret Garden’s Dickon, crossed with Robin Hood’.
Aiken took her vocation seriously, once declaring: ‘The greatest sin against children is to write books for them according to formula. That is as bad as selling them … shoes that are going to let in the wet.’ It is a sin that Aiken never committed; many would agree with Rundell when she describes The Wolves of Willoughby Chase as ‘the best piece of children’s adventure storytelling of its period’.
Joan Aiken, daughter of the American poet Conrad Aiken, was born in 1924 in Sussex, England. Educated privately, Aiken worked as a librarian for the UN Information Committee from 1943 to 1949, and then as a features editor for Argosy magazine from 1955 to 1960. In 1953 she published her first collection of short stories for children, All You’ve Ever Wanted, and went on to write more than sixty books for children and adults. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, the first book in her James III series, established her reputation as a writer of fast-paced and humorous adventure stories. In 1968 she was awarded the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize and named commended runner-up for the Carnegie Medal for The Whispering Mountain, the prequel to the James III series. In 1999 she was awarded an MBE for her services to children’s literature. Aiken died in 2004.
Katherine Rundell is a children’s novelist and a Fellow in English literature at All Souls College, Oxford. Her first book, The Girl Savage, was published in 2011, and her second novel, Rooftoppers (2014), was nominated for the Carnegie Medal, shortlisted for the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize, and won the Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize. Her most recent novel is The Wolf Wilder (2015).
Bill Bragg graduated from the Royal College of Art in 2005 and is co-founder of the art publication and collective LE GUN. He has illustrated four of Franz Kafka’s works for The Folio Society (The Trial, The Castle, Amerika and Metamorphosis and Other Stories), as well as an edition of Herman Melville’s Complete Shorter Fiction and two of the Barsetshire novels (Barchester Towers and The Warden) by Anthony Trollope. Other work includes bookcover designs for Faber and Faber and illustrations for the Guardian and the New York Times. He was shortlisted for the Arts Foundation award in 2010 for his graphic-novel work. This is his first illustration work for a children’s novel.
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Review by Kaytat on 2nd Sep 2016
"Lovely, lovely edition of this charming story. The black and white illustrations are very striking and totally in keeping with the wintery theme. The cover illustration is one of the most evocative ..." [read more]
Review by email@example.com on 30th Dec 2015
"Mrs B, aged 42 says: Absent parents leave plucky children to deal with no good villains. There's a tiny bit of grey at the beginning but this is a black and white tale brought to life in a powerfully ..." [read more]