I am here today with another review (trying to make a dent in that massive pile of reviews to be written!) Today I am sharing my thoughts on the first book in a series for middle grade readers: The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood.
- This was a clever, fun novel that I enjoyed and that surprised me. I am not sure what I expected before opening this one, but it was not what I read.
- I picked this up at my local used bookstore on a whim after hearing about it on the Read Aloud Revival podcast. Basically, if Sarah Mackenzie recommends a book, I know I will enjoy it.
According to Goodreads, “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?”
The highlight of this novel is definitely the witty, clever narrator! We get more of a third person limited narrator who gets us inside Penelope’s head throughout. Although, it would have been fun to get inside more characters heads like Mrs Ashton or even the Incorrigibles themselves! I loved the witty asides and sayings of Mrs Swanburne. Sometimes I laughed out loud. I love when our narrator explains how things were different in Penelope’s time and our current time. I think this book would be a delight to read aloud and the narrator is a big reason why.
My favorite character was our intrepid governess, Penelope Lumley. She is such a fun protagonist. And I am very impressed by her maturity and determination for such a young lady. I love that the first time she meets the Incorrigibles, Penelope isn’t intimidated or scared or confused. She just says they need clothes and a bed in the house. She is literally the perfect governess for them! Her understanding, her patience, her love of animals all help her love and care for them. Plus I love that she loves books and poetry and insists on sharing them with the Incorrigibles early on. Mysteries about her past seem to multiply at the end of the story leaving me anxious to learn more about her.
While I was a bit skeptical at first, the three Incorrigibles are actually a delight to read about! Alexander, Beowulf, and Cassiopeia are such fun characters that I think especially young readers will enjoy reading about. I must have poorly skimmed the back cover on this one because I didn’t really expect that they were literally raised by wolves. Their animal like tendencies are mostly really funny: the first time they put on real clothes, chasing squirrels, howling at the moon, all their names for each other (especially Lumawoo!). It’s a lot of fun to read about them. Then I love their transformation–writing poetry, repeating polite phrases, reenacting poetry. They are so lovable and easy to cheer for.
I did have some qualms about the story–most prominently all the questions that are left unanswered at the end. There are SO many loose ends at the end of the story!! Here come a few spoilers… What is behind that wall? Are Penelope and the Incorrigibles related? What’s up with Old Timothy lurking around everywhere? Why are the Ashton’s married and did Mr Ashton really just find the children in the woods? Who ruined the party on purpose? So many questions!! Perhaps this is all clever way to make us keep reading the series to find out! My other main issue with the story is Mr Ashton. I really didn’t care for his character. From the extreme addiction to hunting of all sorts to how he doesn’t treat his wife with respect (so sad). I just couldn’t figure him out.
Overall, a fun, simple story about Penelope helping the children act more human and preparing for the Christmas party. I enjoyed this one enough to continue in the series. Although, I haven’t felt the itch to read the sequel right away. But I hope we get more answers soon!
What stories have you read that really surprised you?
Do you read a series back to back or do you spread them out over time?