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The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: Book I: The Mysterious Howling Hardcover – Deckle Edge, February 23, 2010

4.3 out of 5 stars 168 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Grade 5–8—Jane Eyre meets Lemony Snicket in this smart, surprising satire of a 19th-century English governess story. A witty omniscient narrator speaks directly to modern readers and follows 15-year-old Penelope, recent graduate of the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females, to British country manor Ashton Place, where conniving Lord Fredrick has discovered three wild children apparently raised by wolves while hunting in his vast forest property. To Lord Fredrick, who's named them Alexander, Beowulf, and Cassiopeia Incorrigible, the children are trophies and property ("Finder's keepers, what?"); to young Lady Constance they're savage nuisances who howl, chase squirrels, and gnaw on shoes. Enter Penelope Lumley, charged with taming them in time for a Christmas party, and bolstered by her top-notch classical education and an endless supply of platitudes from Agatha Swanburne. She also comes armed with a cherished book of poetry and her favorite fiction series, "Giddy-Yap, Rainbow!" There are stock characters, and there are mysteries. Most of all, without taking itself too seriously, there is commentary on writing itself, the dangers and the benefits of relying on books for moral courage, and the perils of drawing false expectations of the world from literature. Penelope shows growth, confronting issues of social class and expectation versus reality, and eventually realizing her own capacity for insight. Humorous antics and a climactic cliff-hanger ending will keep children turning pages and clamoring for the next volume, while more sophisticated readers will take away much more. Frequent plate-sized illustrations add wit and period flair.—Riva Pollard, Prospect Sierra Middle School, El Cerrito, CA
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* Three unfortunate orphans. A series of unexplained events. A droll offstage narrator. Is any of this starting to sound familiar? Well, yes and no. Although Lemony Snicket’s illustrious crew does come to mind right from the start of this book, there are differences. For instance, these children were raised by wolves. Moreover, they’re not even the protagonists of the Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series. That pride of place goes to Miss Penelope Lumley, their 15-year-old governess, recently graduated from the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females. Penny, who understands commitment, takes in stride her first introduction to her charges, with their near-naked bodies, matted hair, and indecipherable growling. Soon she has them listening to poetry and playing about with Latin, but things are not well at Ashton Place. How Lord Fredrick came upon these children is unclear; who wants them out of Ashton Place means danger; and whether there’s someone living behind the staircase wall is perplexing. Then there are the questions about Penny herself. It would have been lovely if all or any of this was cleared up. It’s not, so the book serves as more of an appetizer than a main course. But how hearty and delicious it is. Smartly written with a middle-grade audience in mind, this is both fun and funny and sprinkled with dollops of wisdom (thank you, Agatha Swanburne). How will it all turn out? Appetites whetted. Grades 4-6. --Ilene Cooper
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 1000L (What's this?)
  • Series: Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Balzer + Bray; First Edition, First Printing edition (February 16, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061791059
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061791055
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (168 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #330,061 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on March 3, 2010
Format: Hardcover
When you're a parent or a librarian or a teacher or a bookseller who reads a lot of children's books, you sometimes wish for fun. Children's books are often by their very nature "fun". But there's fun that's strained and trying to appeal to everyone and then there's fun that appears to be effortless. You read a book, are transported elsewhere, lose track of time, and never want the story to end. It's the kind of fun a person encounters in a book like Book One of "The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place". In "The Mysterious Howling" you meet a book that's a little like "Jane Eyre", a little like Jane Yolen's "Children of the Wolf", and a little like nothing at all. Pure pleasure for kids, for adults, for everyone. Treat yourself.

If you were to hire a governess from the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females, you would find yourself with a young lady of exceptionable talents, knowledge, and intellect. Such is the case when Lord Frederick and Lady Constance hire fifteen-year-old Penelope Lumley to be governess of three children. The catch? Well, they're not your average nippers, these three. Found on the sprawling acreage of Lord Frederick's estate, the children appear to have been raised entirely by wolves. Literally. Their new guardians have dubbed them "The Incorrigibles" and are expecting miracles. Now it is up to Miss Lumley to get them civilized and educated or it's to the orphanage with them and unemployment for her. And there are certainly strange goings on at Ashton Place, that's for certain. Does someone have it in for the children?
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Format: Hardcover
I was thoroughly excited to read this book, just based off of the name and the cover, and although, I would generally not recommend judging a book by its cover, this book proved to be wonderful. The premise is already charming, that there would be need for a governess to oversee children who happen to be raised by wolves. Beyond that, it's every bit fun that you would expect.

The children adapt and learn quickly, but Wood makes them consistent to their wolfly roots, throwing in squirrel chases and conversations with housedogs. They seem like believable characters, as believable as children raised by wolves can be, I suppose, and all of the other main characters in the story are just as ridiculous but lovable, as any good historical satire of Victorian society would be.

Wood's writing style reminds me of the dry wit of Roald Dahl, and it's about time that we had books in that style again. I can't wait to read the rest of the series as it comes out, and I recommend this to readers 9+, focusing more on 9-12.

-Lindsey Miller, [...]
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Format: Hardcover
When Miss Penelope Lumley, a recent graduate of the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females, goes to Ashton Place to be interviewed for the position of governess to three young children, she's certain that she's found the ideal job. A knowledgeable governess who loves animals is being sought after, and Penelope is perfect for the task. But what she doesn't expect are the children's animal-like tendencies, a direct result of being raised by wolves. Rather than flee Ashton Place, Penelope is determined to stay on and teach the children all she can. But it is rather difficult to do so when she must first teach them proper hygiene and etiquette in preparation for the holiday ball to please their benefactors, all the while wondering where on earth the children came from and why certain people are perhaps too interested in them.

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place is a charming and unconventional tale. It's told in an authentic and highly entertaining voice that lends itself to the setting of the novel, sophisticated and proper, yet very entertaining and accessible to younger readers (for example, when discussing a tableaux vivant, the narrator says, "No doubt this will sound dull to the modern viewer whose tastes have been shaped by more advanced forms of entertainment featuring zombies and so forth..."). These little references to more modern items are a bit surpsing at first, but they are few and far between. The characters are of course eccentric, from the three Incorrigibles Alexander, Beowulf, and Cassiopeia and their quirky, canine, and squirrel-chasing tendencies, all the way to the lord and lady of Ashton Place. In the middle of it all, Penelope is a clever and resourceful heroine with gumption and smarts who isn't easily cowed.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
These are well-told tales, and a fun read. However, the books read more like individual parts/sections of one novel. There is no clear resolution at the end of any of them - all of the books are a single tale, not a 'series.'

We often pick up the first book in a series just to see if we enjoy the writer - get to the end, and if you're not hooked, don't get more. In this case - that would have felt like reading half a book, and been very disappointing.Plan to read the whole set, or not at all.
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