Rummanah Aasi
  What do you get when you mix the sensibility of Jane Eyre with the tongue in cheek humor of Lemony Snicket? A thoroughly enjoyable series called The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place. Currently there are four books in the series, which can be enjoyed by a wide audience. The Mysterious Howling is the first book in the series.

Description: Found running wild in the forest of Ashton Place, the Incorrigibles are no ordinary children: Alexander, age ten or thereabouts, keeps his siblings in line with gentle nips; Cassiopeia, perhaps four or five, has a bark that is (usually) worse than her bite; and Beowulf, age somewhere-in-the-middle, is alarmingly adept at chasing squirrels.
   Luckily, Miss Penelope Lumley is no ordinary governess. Only fifteen years old and a recent graduate of the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females, Penelope embraces the challenge of her new position. Though she is eager to instruct the children in Latin verbs and the proper use of globes, first she must help them overcome their canine tendencies.
  But mysteries abound at Ashton Place: Who are these three wild creatures, and how did they come to live in the vast forests of the estate? Why does Old Timothy, the coachman, lurk around every corner? Will Penelope be able to teach the Incorrigibles table manners and socially useful phrases in time for Lady Constance's holiday ball? And what on earth is a schottische?

Review: The Mysterious Howling has all the check-marks for a Lemony Snicket ripoff: three unfortunate orphans, a series of unexplained events, and a droll offstage narrator but those similarities stop there as Wood takes a refreshing look at these old conventions in children's literature. You see the children of Ashton place were raised literally by wolves and they really aren't the protagonists of the Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series. The main character is actually a Mary Poppins like teen governess named Miss Penelope Lumley who has recently graduated from the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females.     
  Penelope is an adorable, naive, fresh-off-from-school graduate who is ready for her first job. When she sees a job posting for a governess, she applies and gets the offer right away despite the fact that so many people have tried to convince her not to take the job. Understanding commitment, Penelope accepts the offer and believes there is nothing that can deter her from being a successful governess that is until she meets the children- three near-naked bodies, so dirty that you can barely see their eyes, and who are growling like wolves. 
  Instead of running out of the household like any ordinary governess, Penelope takes the time to understand the children by learning about how wolves behave in nature and thus using those skills to get the attention of her charges. Penelope is sweet and patient with the Incorrigibles and soon they gain her trust and loyalty. The Incorigibles make large strides in their learning as Penelope actually has them listening to poetry, playing about with Latin, and forming almost complete sentences. Named after various characters in history and literature, the Incorrigibles are delightful and their training session with Penelope was my favorite part of the book, which had me chuckling and smiling. 
  While Penelope has been able to manage the Incorigibles thus far, there is a sense of foreboding at Ashton Place. There are a lot questions raised and mysteries to be solved such as how did Lord Fredrick came upon these children? Who wants them out of Ashton Place and why? Is there someone living behind the staircase wall who is making all the weird noises at the manor? There are also questions surrounding Penelope herself: Why was the job post specifically targeted to her? Why does she have the same hair color and type as the Incorrigibles? While nothing of these questions are addressed, I didn't mind it so much because it is just a starter of a really promising series. Smartly written with good understanding of its middle-grade audience as well as adult humor that may fall under the young readers radar, The Mysterious Howling, is both fun and funny. I enjoyed it so much that I've already have the next two books up for review soon. The series gets better and better and I can't wait to see what lies ahead for Penelope and the Incorrigibles.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades 4-6.

If you like this book try: The Hidden Gallery (The Incorrigible Children of Aston Place #2), Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket, The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry
3 Responses
  1. That speaks volumes if you are already jumping in with the rest of the series. It does sound like a lot of fun. I am adding to my kids pin board :0

  2. Candace Says:

    This one does sound good! I have seen the series but haven't heard a lot. I think my kids are a tad young but in the next year or two my daughter should enjoy it and I'll be sure to pick it up then!

  3. Anonymous Says:

    This is such a fun series, and I'm so glad to hear you enjoyed this. Can't wait to hear what you think of the next books!

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