Summary and book reviews of The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood

The Mysterious Howling

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, Book I

By Maryrose Wood

The Mysterious Howling
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    Readers' Opinion:

  • Hardcover: Mar 2010,
    272 pages.
    Paperback: Jan 2011,
    288 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Jennifer G Wilder

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About this Book

Book Summary

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?

The Second Chapter

Penelope and Lady Constance converse to the accompaniment of strange noises.

If you have ever visited a theme park full of roller coasters, water slides, and thrilling games of chance, you were undoubtedly tickled half to death by it all. But then, just when it seemed the excitement had reached a fever pitch from which you might never recover, the tedious ordeal of waiting in a long line for the bathroom may have suddenly made you so bored that you wished you were home in bed with the flu.

So it was with Penelope. Despite the two days of anxious travel she had just endured and the important job interview that awaited her, as she sat there trapped in the carriage seat next to a coachman who had decided not to talk, Penelope grew excruciatingly bored. She decided it would be rude to glance at her poetry book.

"I shall have to resort to the scenery to keep me occupied," she thought, turning her mind to the task. They were now passing through stately woods. ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

Discussion Questions

  1. What does incorrigible mean? Do you think Alexander, Beowulf, and Cassiopeia really are incorrigible? Could any of the other characters in the novel be described as incorrigible?
  2. The narrator says that Penelope Lumley is "perfectly match[ed]" to "what any reasonable person might expect a young governess to look like" (p. 7). What adjectives would you use to describe Penelope?
  3. When Penelope first tells the story of the ponies, she says that Silky's rough behavior is not his fault because he has "known no kindness or tender care in his life" (p. 40). Do you agree or disagree? Are people and animals responsible for acting badly if they've never been ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

This novel is terrifically entertaining, so delicious in its personalities, settings, and language that you might not notice at first how nourishing it is - packed with positive thinking and sterling character traits... Girls are likely to appreciate Penelope as a role model, a Victorian Girl Scout leading them on. Boys are likely to enjoy the feral children and the hints of a werewolf plot, still to be unraveled. The book ends with many unanswered questions, and the expected "To Be Continued...," but I'm ready to follow governess Penelope through any number of sequels.   (Reviewed by Jennifer G Wilder).

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Media Reviews
Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. It's the best beginning since [Lemony Snickett's] The Bad Beginning (1999) and will leave readers howling for the next episode. Ages 10-12.

Booklist

Starred Review. How hearty and delicious...Smartly written with a middle-grade audience in mind, this is both fun and sprinkled with dollops of wisdom (thank you, Agatha Swanburne). How will it all turn out? Appetites whetted.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Though the novel ends a bit abruptly, the pervasive humor and unanswered questions should have readers begging for more.

School Library Journal

[F]or most, this will be the kind of story you read over and over again, just to taste the language and meet the characters again. Just the loveliest little book. One hopes we'll be seeing many more of its kind very soon indeed... Pure pleasure for kids, for adults, for everyone. Treat yourself.

Reader Reviews
Becky H

I loved this book!
I received this book as an ARC some time ago and found it delightful. I laughed out loud and yet was moved almost to tears. I am a retired children's librarian and I most heartily recommend this book to all the children and adults who loved Mary ...   Read More

Sue

Ahh-roooooo!
Driving around Silicon Valley can be an irritating experience. So many cars out there, and it seems other drivers' only objective is to get in front of me. To keep my speed and blood pressure down, I listen to children's audio books while commuting...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Nurses, nannies, governesses, tutors, and companions: a taxonomy
The childcare arrangements of the nineteenth-century British upper crust have spawned a dynasty of classic literary characters. Can you tell your nursemaids from your nannies, your tutors from your governesses?

Nurse was in charge of the nursery regime - the diapers, the baths, and, especially in the case of the wet nurse, the nourishment. Polly Toodle of Dickens's Dombey and Son is a classic wet nurse, standing in place of a mother and passing on a bit of lower-class affection along with her milk. Nursemaids were nurse's underlings and probably got the nastiest jobs.

The word "nanny" is a close synonym of "nurse", and may derive from a babytalk ...

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