The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken
originally published 1962
Delacourte, 1st edition, 2000
Genre: Children’s classic, historical fiction, COVENS
Book Report: Wicked wolves and a grim governess threaten Bonnie and her cousin Sylvia when Bonnie’s parents leave for a sea voyage. Left in the care of the cruel Miss Slighcarp, the girls can hardly believe what is happening to their lovely, once happy home. The servants are dismissed, the furniture is sold, and, dressed in rags, Bonnie and Sylvia are sent to a prison-like school for orphans. It seems as if the endless hours of drudgery will never cease.
With the help of Simon the gooseboy and his flock, they escape. But where will they go? And how will they ever get Willoughby Chase free from the clutches of the evil Miss Slighcarp?
OH SHIT YEAH. I used to have a copy of The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, and I read it ALL THE TIME. (What the hell happened to that book?) I set so many stories in Aiken’s world, and even had a long-running series of dreams in which I was in a summer camp overrun by giant wolves a la TWoWC (there were tunnels from cabin to cabin, and sometimes we traveled by rooftop). I still want to doze off in a cart full of geese and play with a giant stuffed pony with crystal eyes. Who wouldn’t? So it’s obvious that I was delighted to read Laura Lippman’s treatment of TWoWC in Shelf Discovery and find that I was not alone in my love for spunky orphans. Read the rest of this entry »
Babyface by Norma Fox Mazer
originally published 1990
Harcourt, 1st printing, 2007
Genre: Young adult, juvanalia
Book Report: Toni and Julie have been best friends forever. They’ve lived next door to one another since before they were born a week apart, and though their families couldn’t be more different, they get along great. The girls themselves also couldn’t be more different: Julie is a tall blonde extrovert/drama queen, and Toni is a shy petite brunette. Regardless, they are inseparable, spending all their free time together and celebrating birthdays together.
Then, the summer they turn fourteen, Julie’s parents decide they need something different. Her father takes off for Alaska, and rather than be left behind wondering, Julie’s mom takes her two daughters to San Francisco for the summer. Toni is all alone for the first time in her life, and when her father has a heart attack, she feels even more bereft. While staying with her estranged older sister for a few days, Toni discovers a disturbing secret about her family, one that she just can’t get over, not by herself. When school starts up again in the fall and Julie still hasn’t returned, Toni handles it with the help of Julie’s old crush. But when Julie comes back, will she see it as an innocent friendship? Or is it something more?
Norma Fox Mazer was Some Big Deal in YA during the years I was a young adult (and before and after them, too). I remember seeing her name on books at the library on in book orders, but for whatever reason, I never really read any. Except for Silver, which I read in one afternoon when I was trapped in an afterschool program in sixth grade. And I think that’s unfortunate, because what’s I’ve read so far has been excellent. I randomly picked Babyface and Taking Terri Mueller out from the MCL’s catalog, inspired by my inability to recall Norma Klein’s name while looking for books related to the Shelf Discovery Challenge. How fortunate for me. Read the rest of this entry »
The Grounding of Group 6 by Julian F. Thompson
originally published 1983
Henry Holt & Co, 1st printing, 1997
Genre: Young adult, horror, black comedy
Synopsis & Review: The five members of Group 6 have little in common but an unfortunate parentage, something of which none of them are aware. Though they believe they’re intended to start a new schoolyear at a new boarding school called Coldbrook Country School, none of the members of Group 6 have any idea what’s in store for them. Coldbrook isn’t just a private school, it’s also a disposal facility, so to speak. For a fee, parents of difficult children—“lemons” in Coldbrook parlance—can have their difficult offspring removed from the face of the planet. They will be murdered and then the bodies disposed of in deep crevasses in the earth, where they’ll be no bother to anyone ever again.
But Group 6 is different. Coke and Sully, and Marigold, Sara, and Ludi—and their leader/TA, Nat– will be the last Group that Coldbrook tries to dispose of. Instead of Nat killing the Group, and then in turn being killed by Coldbrook’s inner circle of staff, Nat will confess to the Group Coldbrook’s and their parents’ intentions. Rather than wait quietly for death, the Group digs in to the remote wilderness beyond the school, camping for the autumn as Coldbrook’s staff frantically search for the missing lemons.
While in hiding, the Group slowly coheres, becoming friends, and in some cases lovers. They learn to work together, and to play to their strengths and improve on their weaknesses. By the time winter approaches, the Group formulates a plan to return to their rightful places, wherever those may be.
If I had been ten when I first read The Grounding of Group 6, or twelve, or even fourteen, then I would have eaten it up. It has all the elements of classic YA of its era: attractive young people (none are fat!) chock full o’ burgeoning sexuality, hateful and/or neglectful parents, a lack of adult supervision, roughing it in the wilderness, psychic powers, and very bizarre circumstances. I should still eat it up with a spoon, but unfortunately, it all falls apart at the end. Read the rest of this entry »
I haven’t yet read Lizzie Skurnik’s Shelf Discovery–though I do love the idea–and since there are books in Shelf Discovery that I never read as a young person, I am excited to participate in the Shelf Discovery Challenge, hosted by Julie P of Booking Mama.
SHELF DISCOVERY is a “reading memoir” which features over 70 MG and YA classics with Ms. Skurnick’s unique impressions. There are also essays about these classics written by current women writers including Meg Cabot, Laura Lippman, Cecily von Ziegesar, and Jennifer Weiner.
By participating in this challenge, you can revisit some of your childhood favorites while also having the chance to read some of these classics for the very first time. And even if you’ve read some of these books over and over again as a young girl (like me), I think that by re-reading them now we will appreciate them for entirely different reasons.
The Shelf Discovery Challenge will run for six months (November 1, 2009 – April 30, 2010). To join me in this challenge, all you need to do is grab a copy of SHELF DISCOVERY and pick out what six books you want to read (of course, you can read more than six!) Then, after you read a book, just write a “book report” to share your thoughts with others!
My Shelf Discovery books:
1. Ghosts I Have Been by Richard Peck
2. The Grounding of Group Six by Julian F. Thompson
3. A Ring of Endless Light by Madeline L’Engle
4. Jane-Emily by Patricia Clapp
5. Secret Lives by Berthe Amoss
6. To All My Fans, with Love, from Sylvie by Ellen Conford
1. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken
2. Babyface by Norma Fox Mazer*
2. The Taking of Terri Mueller by Norma Fox Mazer*
3. Missing Pieces by Norma Fox Mazer*
4. Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt
5. How Do You Lose Those Ninth Grade Blues by Barthe DeClements*
6. Nothing’s Fair in Fifth Grade by Barthe DeClements*
7. Voices After Midnight, Richard Peck*
8. Princess Ashley, Richard Peck*
9. Seventeen and In-Between, Barthe DeClements *
10. Love is One of the Choices, Norma Klein*
11. Domestic Arrangements by Norma Klein
12. It’s Not the End of the World by Judy Blume
(*Inspired by Shelf Discovery, but not actually in it.)