The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: the Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood is a charming novel for children in fifth through ninth grade. The story about a 19th century governess makes use of satire and wacky humor with a wonderful blend of Jane Austin and Lemony Snicket. Penelope is a fifteen year old who has recently graduated from the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females. She accepts a position to act as governess for three children, only to discover that she has very unusual charges. Apparently, Penelope’s employer, Lord Fredrick, found the children in the woods while he was hunting wolves on his estate. The new lady of the estate, Lady Constance, is giddy and completely uninterested in the children. These wolf nurtured children pose a unique set of challenges, but Penelope surges on ahead teaching them manners, literature and language. She is charged with getting the children ready to attend a large Christmas party, as well as teaching them more standard fair. Armed with a solid education and sayings from the esteemed founder of her alma mater she faces each challenge with dignity and logic.
The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place offers its readers mystery, struggles between social classes, and a mystery. While there are some characters that might be considered stock, Penelope and Constance show changes. Penelope shows character growth through the story, and Constance garners much more sympathy from Penelope and readers as the story moves forward. The attendees to Lady Constance’s party, and Lord Fredrick, are some that I would like to explore further in future volumes of this new series. The story comes together seamlessly, blending its different aspects and keeping readers guessing. There were several points in the story when I simply could not guess what was coming next. The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place was a fun and highly entertaining read. The illustrations add a fantastic touch to the tale, offering the perfect pictures that will appeal to all readers regardless of their age.
The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place has more layers than one might expect, so I do recommend this book to more than just children. It would be a great choice for reading aloud as a family or for children to read independently. Adults can appreciate this book on several levels as well. There is much more here than the story of a new governess discovering that things are not always what we expect. There is commentary on writing, the dangers of basing too much power in our own preconceptions, and the dangers of relying too heavily on what we have learned from books. My only compliant is the cliffhanger ending, but only because I now have to wait until I can get my hands on The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Hidden Gallery to discover what happens next.