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The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, Book I: The Mysterious Howling

Review

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, Book I: The Mysterious Howling

It is time for 15-year-old Penelope Lumley to make her way in the world. After being raised at the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females, the not-quite orphan (she likes to think her parents are alive somewhere) secures her first position as a governess. Armed with an excellent education in geography, Latin, poetry and more, she is ready to share her knowledge and manners with her young charges. But, as soon as she arrives at Ashton Place, she knows something is awry. As it turns out, Penelope is to care for three children who seemingly have been raised by wolves.

This is the premise of the delightful novel THE MYSTERIOUS HOWLING, the first installment in Maryrose Wood’s The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place. The prim and proper Penelope, who is, most importantly, quite clever and resourceful, is awed by Ashton Place but less than impressed with the lady of the house, the young, flighty and newly married Lady Constance Ashton. Lady Constance seems uninterested in the children and frankly too young to have three of her own, but Penelope soon learns why when she is taken to see them in the barn. Unbathed and unkempt, the two boys and one girl are truly wild --- growling and barring their teeth, huddling in a dark corner. Penelope learns that Lord Fredrick came upon the feral trio on a hunting expedition in the woods on the Ashton estate. He decided to keep them and see if they could be civilized, and that is where Penelope comes in.

Penelope is thrilled to have a room of her own for the first time in her life and carefully unpacks her meager but special belongings. But once she is settled, she must begin the challenging work of caring for and educating the children whom Lord Fredrick has named Alexander, Beowulf and Cassiopeia Incorrigible. Yet, though they are called incorrigible, they prove to be eager and thoughtful students, and soon Penelope has them exploring a number of subjects essential to an English education. It is difficult, however, to get them to stop howling and chasing squirrels.

Looming large in the story are several mysteries: Where does Lord Fredrick go when he is away for so long from Ashton Place? Why has he decided to keep the Incorrigibles instead of sending them to an orphanage or boarding school? Who are the children really, and where are their parents? And what is the mysterious thing behind the wall in the attic?

Penelope Lumley is a wonderful heroine: a young woman who relies on her wits and intelligence to solve problems, and her instincts and kindheartedness to care for the children. The story is strange and interesting, full of keen references and witty turns of phrase. There is also a darkness to it as the children seem to be under threat from hunters and perhaps more sinister forces as well. The book is smart and fun, and Jon Klassen's quirky black and white illustrations add just the right touch and tone. With its riff on traditional English novels of manners, it will appeal to adults as well as young readers, who will delight in the antics of the children and wonder about their mysterious origins.

THE MYSTERIOUS HOWLING is just as neat and tidy, sweet and confident, charming and brainy as Penelope Lumley herself. But readers will have to stay tuned for future books in the series to solve all the mysteries it presents.

Reviewed by Sarah Rachel EgelmanĀ  on January 25, 2011

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, Book I: The Mysterious Howling
(The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place #1)
by Maryrose Wood

  • Publication Date: January 25, 2011
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Balzer + Bray
  • ISBN-10: 0061791105
  • ISBN-13: 9780061791109