Lad with a Whistle (1941)

Lad with a WhistleCarol Ryrie Brink is best known for Caddie Woodlawn, but she wrote a number of other books in a variety of children’s genres. Lad with a Whistle is her love-letter to Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson. It’s a shamelessly sentimental Scottish highlands adventure, featuring Rob McFarland: orphaned, homeless, and perfectly happy, earning his living as an itinerant piper. He befriends a pair of wealthy children who end up at the mercy of evil-doers, ultimately saving them with his bravery and resourcefulness. (Rob is an excellent example of the Boy With A Shepherd’s Pipe trope, exemplified by Dickon in The Secret Garden.)

Wolves of Willoughby ChaseAnyone familiar with Wolves of Willoughby Chase will immediately recognize that Joan Aiken had to have read this book. Two upper-class children (Annie & Malcolm/Bonnie & Sylvia) are helped by an older boy who lives by his wits out of doors (Rob/Simon). They are assisted by a faithful manservant (Geordie/James) and ultimately by an adult man (Tammas/Dr. Field) who brings in reinforcements. The villain is the housekeeper/governess (Mrs. Minnock/Miss Slighcarp), who is tall and severely dressed, aided by an evil lawyer (Mr. Dipple/Mr. Grimethorpe) and evil servant (Brody/Marl). They proceed to sell the family valuables, burn incriminating documents, and try to displace the children as heirs.

The children escape with the help of the boBlackhearts in Batterseay, and spend a period of time wandering and camping out and becoming brown as “gypsies”/berries. They return to the manor house with the reinforcements, tricking the bad guys into incriminating themselves before the reinforcements leap out. There is a big feast for everyone after the bad guys are locked up, and a coincidental return of the lord of the manor (Sir John/Sir Willoughby) that evening. The boy turns down an offer to live at the manor, being too used to the simple life.

There are even a couple of elements that appear in the Wolves sequel, Blackhearts in Battersea: Rob carrying a stray kitten buttoned in his jacket, and a a painting being evidence of who is the real heir.

2 thoughts on “Lad with a Whistle (1941)

  1. Cassandra

    What a wonderful parallel! They sound remarkably similar in plot device, but would you recommend Lad With a Whistle for those who like the Willoughby Place books?


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