Catching Fireflies

finding magic along the way

Mesmerized by English Wolves

I was mesmerized by English wolves at a very young age. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken (1924-2004) was one of my first encounters with orphans, a condition that is prevalent in children’s literature. I think when the parents are removed from the plot, there are so many possibilities. 🙂 I was sucked in by the evil of the of Mrs. Brisket’s orphanage and swept away by the almost Victorian feel of the story.

I went on to read other books by Ms. Aiken. The rest of the Wolves series was of utmost interest – The Whispering Mountain, Black Hearts in Battersea, Nightbirds on Nantucket, The Stolen Lake, The Cuckoo Tree, Dido and Pa, Is Underground, Cold Shoulder Road, Midwinter Nightingale, and The Witch of Clatteringshaws all grace my bookshelves even now that I am in my 40s. I also love Midnight Is a Place, The Cockatrice Boys, and Ms. Aiken’s story collections, A Necklace of Raindrops, The Kingdom Under the Sea and Other Stories, and The Last Slice of Rainbow and Other Stories. (I have linked to her author page at amazon in case you are interested in finding any of these treasures for your own library.)

Even with this large collection of her work on my shelves, I was a bit surprised to learn how prolific she was – over 100 books! As someone embarking on the publishing journey for my very first novel, my brain stutters over the list of books this writer has written!

Joan Aiken was born to a family of writers. Her father was the American Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Conrad Aiken. Her brother and sister were both writer – John Aiken and Jane Aiken Hodge. She was home-schooled until she was 12, and finished her first full-length novel by age 16. (Boy do I feel like I am late to the show! 🙂 ) She supported her family after the death of her husband by finding work as a copy editor for Argosy magazine. After The Wolves of Willoughby Chase was published in 1962, she was able to write fulltime.

Ms. Aiken wrote for children, teens and adults. She wrote modern novels as well as the more Victorian feeling Wolves series. She loved to write fantasy and ghost stories as well. If you have never experienced this fabulous author’s work, run, do not walk, to your nearest book store and procure a copy of Wolves. You will not be sorry. You will be charmed, scared, and seriously attached!

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