Friday, June 04, 2010

Book Review: The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood

Book: The Mysterious Howling (Book 1 of The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place)
Author: Maryrose Wood
Published: 2010
Source: Review copy from publisher

Who I Told I’d Read It: the publisher
Time: 1:17:49

Penelope Lumley is the newest (and youngest) graduate of the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females, and she's delighted to get a governess post so quickly. She fondly envisions a future full of bright, well-behaved children, soaking up the education she provides.

And in a way, that's what she gets--but first she has to teach Alexander, Beowulf, and Casseopeia not to chew on their own shoes. For it seems almost certain that her new charges were raised by wolves before they were found by Lord Frederick of Ashton Place, and before she teaches them Latin and French, they have to learn how to put on pants the right way up.

But Penelope is not a Swanburne girl for nothing, and she soon comes to love the three children, quirks and all. Which makes it even more unsettling as she realizes that Lord Frederick might not have the most benevolent of plans for them . . .

I've enjoyed Maryrose Wood's books before, so when this one was offered to me, I took it. There is something very Lemony Snicket about this book, with the over-the-top situations, the Gothic touches, and the sly asides to the reader. It would be fun to read this aloud, in a classroom or as ongoing bedtime entertainment.

Penelope totally won me over by her bone-deep practicality. Upon meeting the children for the first time in a barn, wearing only horse blankets and howling like wolves, she does not take to her heels screaming, as might be expected. Instead, she immediately starts working to win their trust, taking the situation exactly as she finds it without hysterics or accusations. She's about the only one in the book who sees the children as children from the first, since everyone else, from hunting-mad Lord Frederick to silly Lady Constance and the servants that eventually become friends, reacts to them as you would to wild animals. At this point in the series, you don't get much sense of their individual personalities, but I'm hoping that will change.

This is the first in a series, and if the various hints that Wood has provided about the larger story hold true, it will be something very much in the vein of Snicket's multi-volume opus. To which I say, bring it on.


Jenny said...

I think I'll wait and see what you think of the subsequent books before I read these. I love Gothic sorts of books for kids, but I'm always afraid these days that such books will just be Snicket imitators. However I am tentatively excited about this series!

Unknown said...

I read this one awhile back and had lots of fun with it. Another blog described it as being an MG Jane Eyre riff, which just sounded tons of fun (since the stuff I found most problematic about Jane Eyre probably wasn't going to come up in an MG novel!) - and it was! Definitely looking forward to seeing more.

beth said...

This one is on my list too. The cover enticed me.

Bibliovore said...

Jenny - I think it owes a lot to Snicket, especially in the tone of the narration, but it doesn't come across as a cheap knockoff to me. I think your excitement is warranted.

Angela - I hadn't thought of Jane Eyre while reading (although The Sound of Music did cross my mind). That's an interesting angle!

LiteracyDocent said...
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