Review: The Mysterious Howling

As I prepare for the final installment of The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, and a very exciting blog post on August 5th, I wanted to revisit a few of the books from the series, as I adore them so! Here, I will be revisiting my review of The Mysterious Howling, with my new comments in bold.

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?

Ah! This book! What a breath of fresh air! I got this little gem on Audible, and listened to it all in one day, and finished the series before the end of the week. This book is my personality in text, and I cannot express my enjoyment for it enough. I truly wish I could’ve found it sooner (but not too much, because I still have to wait seven months for the next installment 0.0 (it ended up being longer because of a delayed release date 🙁 Doesn’t make me any less excited to read The Long Lost Home)).

This clever little series follows a young governess and her students on wild adventures, and both teacher and students grow. We see the Incorrigibles start taking to their new lifestyle, alongside their witty young Penelope. Through the catchphrases and mishaps, we learn important life lessons, right alongside the characters. These books have a wonderful Lemony Snicket style flair to them and bring such a warm fuzzy feeling to this tea loving heart. I truly cannot recommend them enough. The series is one of those middle school novels that just blows my mind. I know I have said it before, but somehow middle school novels almost always seem to be more complex and full of moral issues that most YA is. This series is an example of that; we see the ethics of social classes, the very real issue of feral children during the Enlightenment Movement, a coming of age story, and just a bunch of pluck! These and many other issues are dealt with within the plot, with characters who are very forward-thinking and innovative. Middle School lit ROCKS. 

The storytelling of this book is wonderfully unique; I find the breaking of the fourth wall and the incredibly witty dialogue of this series captivating! It reminds me most strongly of one of my favorite writers, Diana Wynne Jones, and many other authors of the British classics. Penelope is so full of spunk and personality, and it one of the most dynamic characters I have read in a good while. She is a great role model for her pupils, all the while going through some strong character development and growth. As for the breaking of the fourth wall, I adore it. I find that such interaction with the reader allows the story to be even more immersive, which is definitely the case here.

A large portion of my adoration for this book and the series as a whole boils down to the way it makes one realize that every day, no matter how ordinary, is full of adventure and things to be discovered. Penelope and her pupils have such curiosity and excitement for everything from swashbuckling adventures to a nice relaxing cup of tea. This idea, plus the immersive quality of the writing, makes the series oddly inspiring (in the best possible way). 

Overall, this books has all the pieces to a wondeful experiance–good story, good characters, and a good message. I think it translates well to every age range, and I hope you give it a chance. We could all learn a bit from the Swanburne Girls.


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