In my mother's house, somewhere among the Laura Ingalls Wilder and the four copies of Me Talk Pretty One Day we collectively own is a hardback copy of this book. I don't know if its Mom's or Granny's or someone else's, but nearly all of the pictures have been lovingly colored in (apparently when my Mom was sick as a child, this was a special treat she got, it was, devastatingly, Not passed down to the future generation, probably because she did not trust us to color inside the lines) and its one of my favorite memories of childhood.
I did not even know they had come out in paperback (and on my birthday 11 years ago! How marvelous!) but this was a nice way of finding out. I snatched it out of the pile, afraid someone else's hand would get there faster, and clutched it close to my chest. Its sat on my shelf since, a friendly reminder of childhood.
On Friday at work, I was talking with one of our tutors, who is about the same age as my Mom and as wonderfully well versed in the best books of childhood. She was positively glee-ful to discover that my mother had taken the time to introduce me to all the classics. I brought up Wolves of Willoughby Chase and she talked about how much she had loved it. I mentioned Blackhearts in Battersea and how excited I had been to find a copy and it drew a blank stare.
"You never read the sequel to Wolves of Willoughby Chase?"
"There's a sequel?"
I am beyond delighted to have the opportunity to share this book with her, as there is nothing quite as good as sharing a book with someone you know will enjoy it immensely. I put it in my bookbag when I got home on Friday so I wouldn't forget it come Monday morning, but of course, since it was there, I took the opportunity to get reacquainted with Simon and Sophie and little Dido Twite on my bus rides and stolen moments waiting in line for things.
Its really good still. Its obviously more of a child's book than anything else, and so is the easiest of reads, but it is also full of danger and intrigue and phonetically-spelled cockney dialogue full of the jargon of the day. I wish words like "tosser" and "naffy" would come back into popularity and we could all talk with English accents without sounding ridiculous.
Its one of those great children's books that can draw in both boys and girls. Naturally having a male and female protagonist will help, but the girls in this book do just as much rescuing as the boys and they're just as smart and they get to wear gorgeous dresses that are described in just enough detail to let your imagination lose.
Naturally, if you've never read this Joan Aiken series, you must start with Wolves (which is every bit as good, though geared slightly more towards girls although there are some pretty vicious wolves that might pique the boys' interest) then read this one. It's a real hum-dinger.