Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: Book I: The Mysterious Howling (Incorrible Children of Ashton Place)
Technically a children's book, but a great read for all ages...

   If Tim Burton had written Mary Poppins, it might have turned out something like The Mysterious Howling, which is the first book of Maryrose Wood's The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series.  Young Penelope Lumley is only 15 years old and has just landed her first job at Ashton Place as a governess to three children.  Penelope has studied to be a governess her entire life, but nothing could have quite prepared her for these "incorrigible" children - Alexander, Beowulf, and Cassiopeia.  They were found roaming the woods of Ashton Place by Lord Frederick, the owner of the estate.  His wife, Lady Constance suggested that "the savages" be sent to an orphanage, but "finders keepers" he insists, and so Penelope is hired to tame and civilize them.

   This is not an easy task, considering that the children have wandered through the woods their entire lives without parental supervision (unless you count wolves), and little to no human interaction.  They act just like dogs, complete with howling, barking, and squirrel-chasing.  Luckily, Penelope is a kind and patient governess, giving them the care and attention they need after so many years of human neglect.

   Lady Constance requests that the children be presentable by Christmastime, as she is hosting a lavish, posh party on Christmas day.  All goes well until it is clear that someone is sabotaging the children - provoking them to behave like wild, feral animals for some reason or another.  Thus begins the mysterious events of Ashton Place, and Miss Lumley has much investigating to do.

   While this book is classified as children's lit (ages 8-12), I found it to be quite enjoyable as an adult.  It would be a perfect choice for a parent to read aloud to a child, as the storyline is appealing for all ages (and some kids might need a little help with the advanced vocabulary).  Also, the book contain many illustrations that add to its Tim Burton-esque qualities.  By the end of The Mysterious Howling, it is clear that Alexander, Beowulf, and Cassiopeia have many more challenges to face... and so does Miss Lumley. Last night I got a copy of the second book in the series, The Hidden Gallery, and I am eager to find out what fates await the incorrigible children and their governess.