Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood

Book Jacket

Of especially naughty children, it is sometimes said: "They must have been raised by wolves."  The Incorrigible children actually were.

Discovered in the forests of Ashton Place, the Incorrigibles are no ordinary children: Alexander keep his siblings in line with gentle nips; Cassiopeia has a bark that is (usually) worse than her bit; and Beowulf is alarmingly adept at chasing squirrels.

Luckily, Miss Penelope Lumley is no ordinary governess.  Only fifteen years old and a 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 berbs and the proper use of globes, first she must eliminate their canine tendencies.

But mysteries abound at Ashton Place: Who are these three wild creatures?  Why does Old Timothy, the coachman, lurk around every corner?  Will Penelope be able to civilize the Incorrigibles in time for Lady Constance's holiday ball?  And what on earth is a schottische?

Penelope is no stranger to mystery, as her own origins are also cloaked in secrecy.  But as Agatha Swanburne herself once said, "Things may happen for a reason, but that doesn't mean we know what the reason is--at least, not yet."


Jane Eyre is one of my favorite books, and I love parody as much as the next person.  So a book that lovingly mocks the 19th century governess trope is guaranteed to intrigue me.  By page 15, I knew I was hooked when I read this: "Penelope had read several novels about such governesses in preparation for her interview and found them chock-full of useful information, although she had no intention of developing romantic feelings for the charming, penniless tutor at a neighboring estate.  Or--heaven forbid!--for the darkly handsome, brooding, and extravagantly wealthy master of her own household.  Lord Frederick Ashton was newly married in any case, and she had no inkling what his complexion might be."

And really, it's the words that make this book so worth reading.  It's like Maryrose Wood is a hilarious combination of Jane Austen and Lemony Snicket.  In fact, I just have to quote another section that seemed like it could have been copied straight from A Series of Unfortunate Events (and I mean that with the highest praise--if you haven't read the 13-book series yet, do it now!). 

"Extraordinarily busy places are often compared to beehives, and if you have ever seen the inside of a beehive, you already know why this is so.  (It is not necessary to actually set foot inside of a beehive to confirm this, by the way.  They are too small and too full of bees for in-person tours to be truly convenient.  But there are alternatives:  One could peer inside using some sort of periscopelike magnifying device, for example.  Or one could simply accept that beehives are busy and get on with it.  This second option is called "suspending one's disbelief," and it is by far the easiest row to hoe, now and at other times, too.)"

This should be enough to entice everyone to read The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Mysterious Howling, but if it is not, I assure you that the plot is quick, the children adorable and hilarious, Penelope austere and hilarious, and Lady Constance vain and hilarious.  Obviously, if you want a funny read, you should try this.  Though be warned!  None of the mysteries are actually solved!  I didn't know that going in, so it was a bit disappointing to realize I would have to wait until The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Hidden Gallery to get some answers.

Four out of five howls.

Release Date:  February 2010
Reading Level:  Grade 5-8
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection:  YPL WOO

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