MLA Platinum Award Press Release

BookBrowse Reviews The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Mysterious Howling

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, Book I

by Maryrose Wood

The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood X
The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Mar 2010, 272 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2011, 288 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Jennifer G Wilder
Buy This Book

About this Book

Reviews

BookBrowse:


The first in a new series for children chronicling the mysterious adventures of a young governess and her wild charges

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. Maryrose Wood takes her readers on a romp through the English governess genre, complete with unbearable rich people, a vast stately home (Ashton Place), and a dose of gothic intrigue in the form of a mysterious pack of children raised by wolves. The tone of the book is perfectly balanced - warm, lyrical, and unrelentingly funny. You might think that a gag about canine children ending every word in "awoooo," like a howl, would get old after a while. But the product-tester in my house, aged seven, fell for it every time.

One thing I appreciate is that the story is truly safe for children - even though there is a degree of suspense and mystery, there is none of the fear and darkness that lie at the heart of other popular children's books (The Spiderwick Chronicles, A Series of Unfortunate Events, even the chronicles of He Who Must Not Be Named). I couldn't detect a whiff of the cynicism that lurks in Lemony Snicket's series. The Mysterious Howling is animated by a life-affirming, confidence-building creative spirit, and would be fine for even sensitive younger readers as a read-aloud. The vocabulary is rich and the locutions have just the right amount of archaic prissiness, so that the challenge of teasing out the jokes is great fun. There are even modern-day touchstones thrown in (the meat at Ashton Place is cured in a quaint smokehouse, not "purchased in a supermarket, uninterestingly wrapped in plastic."). Some of these kid-friendly references are completely over the top, as when, in explaining the meaning of the word "hyperbole", the narrator spins off into a reference to "a painful gaseous condition called stock market bubbles." But this is part of the fun, and keeps the historical atmosphere from getting too fusty.

The backbone of the book is the character of Penelope Lumley, a young governess with a ready stock of edifying aphorisms and a steady self-confidence. She has read novels about governesses (Jane Eyre isn't mentioned, but it's playfully implied), and keeps a book of poetry handy to help her through difficult times. There are shades of Anne of Green Gables in the description of her arrival at Ashton place, and like Anne, she has a talent for making the best of every situation. She's given a dour gray dress to wear to the family Christmas party, and even though "the style of the garment was not what she herself would have chosen, yet she was forced to admit, she was eager to know what it would feel like to wear a brand-new dress, made especially for her by an expensive seamstress with a French accent." She crams lessons into every spare moment, "Was there time to teach Alexander a simple tune on the piano? Cassiopeia might be able to learn a bit of finger crocheting if they worked straight through dinner and used extra thick wool…" Her achievements with the mysterious children who become her charges are miraculous, and her sang-froid in a crisis is something to cheer for. 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.

Recommended for ages 10-12, though it would be great for even younger children as a read-aloud. This reviewer's 7-year-old gave it 2 thumbs up!

Next in Series
The Hidden Gallery (Feb 22, 2011).

Reviewed by Jennifer G Wilder

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in April 2010, and has been updated for the February 2011 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Join Now!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Daughters Of Smoke & Fire
    Daughters Of Smoke & Fire
    by Ava Homa
    Ava Homa's debut novel begins with an epigraph by Sherko Bekas, a Kurdish poet, the last lines of ...
  • Book Jacket: The Book of V.
    The Book of V.
    by Anna Solomon
    In ancient Persia, Esther, a young Jewish woman, parades herself in front of the king in a desperate...
  • Book Jacket: How to Be an Antiracist
    How to Be an Antiracist
    by Ibram X. Kendi
    Ibram X. Kendi opens How to Be an Antiracist with a personal story he finds shameful in retrospect, ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Darwin Affair
    by Tim Mason
    Set in London in 1860, The Darwin Affair blends fact and fiction, imagining a string of murders ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Last Train to Key West
    by Chanel Cleeton

    Romance and danger are locked into Cleeton's suitcase for this journey to 1935 Key West.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Stone Girl
    by Dirk Wittenborn

    A riveting tale of deception, vengeance, and power set against the haunting beauty of the Adirondacks.
    Reader Reviews

Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
The Beekeeper of Aleppo
by Christy Lefteri

This moving, intimate, and beautifully written novel puts human faces on the Syrian war.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Win this book!
Win Of Bears and Ballots

An Alaskan Adventure in Small-Town Politics

A charming account of holding local office with an entertaining, quirky cast of characters.

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

A S Louder T W

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.