Bitesize Daily Book Club: The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken

Home learning focus

Using the novel The Wolves of Willoughby Chase you will learn how to find information from a text and summarise a character.

This lesson includes:

  • two videos of musician and TV presenter YolanDa Brown reading extracts from the book

  • three activities


The Wolves of Willoughby Chase

The story is set in early 19th-century England. A large number of wolves have migrated from Europe and Russia and are terrorising the people in rural England. The first extract introduces the main house which is called Willoughby Chase. The second extract introduces some of the main characters including Sir Willoughby, his young daughter Bonnie and her new governess Miss Slighcarp, who is working with a network of criminals, forgers and snitches to carry out a terrible plan.

Watch musician and TV presenter YolanDa Brown read an extract from The Wolves of Willoughby Chase.

Think about the following:

  • What impression do you get of Willoughby Chase?

  • Why do you think wolves are mentioned?

  • What do you notice about the techniques used for description in this extract?

Watch YolanDa Brown read an extract from 'The Wolves of Willoughby Chase' by Joan Aiken.

Now watch YolanDa read another extract from The Wolves of Willoughby Chase.

What impression do you get of the relationship between Sir Willoughby and his daughter Bonnie?

Watch YolanDa read a further extract from 'The Wolves of Willoughby Chase'.


You may need paper and a pen or pencil for some of these activities.

Activity 1

Extract 1

It was dusk - winter dusk. Snow lay white and shining over the pleated hills, and icicles hung from the forest trees. Snow lay piled on the dark road across Willoughby Wold, but from dawn men had been clearing it with brooms and shovels. There were hundreds of them at work, wrapped in sacking because of the bitter cold, and keeping together in groups for fear of the wolves, grown savage and reckless from hunger.

Snow lay thick, too, upon the roof of Willoughby Chase, the great house that stood on an open eminence in the heart of the wold. But for all that, the Chase looked an inviting home – a warm and welcoming stronghold. Its rosy herringbone brick was bright and well cared for, its numerous turrets and battlements stood up sharp against the sky, and the crenellated balconies, corniced with snow, each held a golden square of window. The house was all alight within, and the joyous hubbub of its activity contrasted with the sombre sighing of the wind and the hideous howling of the wolves without.

There are wolves outside the walls of Willoughby Chase, but for cousins Bonnie and Sylvia, the real danger lies inside with their wicked governess Miss Slighcarp. Published by Puffin.

Do you agree with the following statement?

The writer describes the interior of Willoughby Chase more favourably than the exterior.

Find some evidence from the text that supports your opinion.

Activity 2

Extract 2

‘That’s all right,’ said Sir Willoughby heartily. ‘Mustn’t let Miss Sylvia die of cold on the train. Besides, the wolves might get you, and then the poor child would be held up on the train all night for want of the signal. Never do, eh? Well, Bonnie, what is it, miss?’

‘Oh, Papa,’ said Bonnie, who had been plucking at his sleeve, ‘may I go with Solly in the chaise to meet Sylvia? May I?’

‘No indulgence should be permitted a child who has behaved as she has done,’ remarked Miss Slighcarp.

‘Oh, come, come, Miss Slighcarp, come, come, ma’am,’ said Sir Willoughby good-naturedly. ‘Young blood, you know. Besides, my Bonnie’s as good a shot at a wolf as any of them. Run along, then, miss, but wrap up snug – remember you’ll be several hours on the road.’

‘Oh, thank you, Papa! Goodbye! Goodbye, Mamma dear, goodbye, Miss Slighcarp!’ and she fondly kissed her parents and ran from the room to find her warmest bonnet and pelisse*.

‘Reckless, foolish indulgence,’ muttered the governess, directing after Bonnie a look of the purest spite.

(*A pelisse is an ankle-length jacket.)

This extract tells us lots about Bonnie's new governess Miss Slighcarp, through what she says and (more importantly) how she says it. We can observe how Miss Slighcarp views Bonnie and this gives us some idea about what type of woman Miss Slighcarp is.

  1. What are your impressions of Miss Slighcarp? Organise your ideas and the evidence from the text in a table.
Impression of Miss SlighcarpEvidence from the text
  1. Using your impressions and evidence in the table, write a paragraph summarising the character of Miss Slighcarp.

Activity 3

The book is called The Wolves of Willoughby Chase and is set at a time when wolves have migrated from Russia and Europe and are terrorising the people of rural England.

Using both extracts, write a short paragraph that explains how the writer subtly weaves in the theme of wolves to her novel.

Top tip!

You could list the quotations that reference wolves from the extracts and explain how they impact on the reader.

There's more to learn

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