Thursday, August 23, 2012
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase
This has been one challenging read aloud week! We're still on the road. And now our reading time has had to go head to head against 11 hour days at Disneyland...
I'm proud to say we are still reading; even if it's just the minimum daily amount specified in our summer reading challenge.
We're a bit of a sight... we've been reading at 6:30 in the morning as we wait in line to enter Disney California Adventure.
Actually, Jin is the one holding our place in line at the special entrance from our hotel into the park. The boys crouch over their cold "breakfast" (can we really count sugared cereals as food?) while I slurp coffee and read to them.
We are just one chapter away from completing our seventh read aloud this summer: The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken.
I picked this book for myself.
It's the story of two little cousins. Sylvia, orphaned and gently reared by her poverty stricken aunt, sent to live with her wealthy cousin. Bonnie, privileged and beloved only child of Sir Willoughby and Lady Green. Her fairytale childhood shadowed her parent's imminent journey to warmer climates in hopes of improving her mother's poor health. It's about what happens when their supposed governess turns out to be an evil villain. Bonnie is made an orphan. Faithful servants are thrown out of Willoughby Chase. The girls are sent off to slave away for a cruel woman hiding behind the guise of school mistress. How can there be a happy end to this terrible string of events?
I adored reading this story as a child. Can't recall what brought this story to mind but I had a yearning to read it again with the boys. I didn't see it in the bookstores, but I was able to order a copy from Amazon.
The first few chapters were rocky ones. The language in the book is more sophisticated than the boys are accustomed to. The setting completely unfamiliar (19th century England). We had to stop numerous times to discuss new ideas and vocabulary. Why was Sylvia so poor? Why couldn't her Aunt Jane just find a job? How could she just be sent off to live with a cousin? What did it mean that Bonnie's father was a "Lord?" Why did Bonnie live on a "Park?" And how big as that park anyway? Who were all the other people living in Bonnie's home? Servants? What? And why were servants called only by their last names?
Their questions were endless. I was starting to think I'd made a poor book choice. But somewhere during Sylvia's terrifying wolf haunted train ride to Willoughby Chase, the story clicked into place for us and my boys were hooked.
I loved this story enough as a child to remember it 30 years later. Although I didn't have the same reaction to it as an adult, I'm so glad I had the chance to experience the book again with my own children. It's also been interesting to discover how much writing styles have morphed over time. I read this quite effortlessly to myself years ago. In the present, my boys struggled to fall into the rhythm of the words. Especially glad that we did this one aloud. I'm sure they would have given this one up in frustration if they'd tried it on their own first. But here we are, at the end of the story and both boys are eager to discover what happens to Bonnie, Sylvia and that terrible Miss Slighcarp at the end of the story.