Monday, January 17, 2011

The Mysterious Howling

The Mysterious Howling is the first ebook I've read with my new Nook!  It was interesting to see how quickly I forgot all about holding the reader in my hand, and it soon felt like reading a regular book.  In some ways it was even better.  I loved being able to mark my spot, and highlight passages and write comments.  I was looking forward to reading over my comments before I wrote my review - and how disappointing it was to discover that I could no longer access them, because the checkout period had expired!  When I download an audio book from the library, it stays on my iPod until I sync it up again.  Not so with the Nook, sadly.  So you will all be deprived of the delightful quotations I highlighted and the insightful comments I wrote as I read  - how disappointing for you. :-)

At any rate, this book is the first in a series about a fifteen-year-old governess, Penelope Lumley, who sets off on her first assignment as governess to three children at Ashton Place.  She is rather surprised to discover that her charges are three children, discovered by Lord Fredrick while out hunting:  orphans who were raised by wolves.  Miss Penelope, however, is a graduate of the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females, and she immediately takes matters to hand, confident that with the correct approach, she is sure to succeed in turning the children into well-mannered and educated young citizens.

After only a short time there, Penelope is pleased with her students' progress.  When Lady Constance, who clearly cannot stand the thought of the children under her roof, makes unkind remarks about them, Penelope springs to their defense.  Perhaps she overestimates their abilities, for now Lady Constance demands that Penelope attend her gala Christmas party - along with the children, who are not only to be on their best behavior, but also to do the Schottische.  Whatever that is.  Penelope is a bit panicked, but she is, of course, a Swinburne girl, and she is confident she will find a way to manage.

What follows is a silly, yet exciting and often disturbing tale, set on a country estate in Victorian England.  At first I found myself wondering if the book's target audience of 9- to 12-year-olds would relate to Penelope, who may only be fifteen, but she acts like an adult.  The children are minor characters, interchangeable with one another and rather silly, although they are certainly appealing little things.  But as the story progressed, I decided that the reader would be sure to empathize with Penelope, who is a strong young woman facing a difficult situation completely alone.  I found the narrator's voice to be very like the narrator in the Lemony Snicket books, talking to the reader in humorous asides, and defining things as well, so children who enjoy that aspect of the Series of Unfortunate Events may well enjoy this series, too - as well as those who like the addition of some humor to their creepy Gothic reads. The book truly has a wide age-range of appeal - more sophisticated readers will appreciate things about that book that will pass over the heads of younger readers, but both are sure to enjoy it.

I particularly enjoyed the fact that there are tantalizing hints of further mysteries to be solved, which makes me look forward to the publication of the next book in this series, scheduled for next month.

Books in the Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series:
1. The Mysterious Howling
2. The Hidden Gallery 

The Mysterious Howling (#1 in the Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series) by Maryrose Wood; illustrations by Jon Klassen (HarperCollins, 2010) - E-book edition

Source: Downloaded from my public library

Also reviewed at:
Becky's Book Reviews:  "I found it wonderfully quirky and oh-so-charming. The writing was clever and fun. I would definitely recommend this one!"
Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog: "...it’s also got some things in it that absolutely horrified me, some exciting scenes that kept me reading long beyond the time I should be asleep, and a strong female protagonist that anyone would love to read about."
The Fourth Musketeer:  "The only negative I found in the book--and I don't think it would be a negative for the author's young readers--was Wood's almost uncanny mimicry of Lemony Snicket's style"

4 comments:

  1. Hmm, sounds interesting!! I might have to get Vince to buy me an nook so I can 'read' it - we won't tell him about the hard copy edition! ;)

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  2. Margaret - Yes, you absolutely need a Nook! It reads picture books, too, which will come in handy. :-)

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  3. I read this out loud to my two youngest girls and they loved it as much as I did. It seems to appeal to many ages. It's amazing that such a bizarre story works I can't wait for the next one. So many questions!

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  4. Shelley - This one would make a great read-aloud - I'm glad you and your girls enjoyed it! It does have a broad age range appeal, and I'm looking forward to finding out some of the answers to all these intriguing questions! Have you read the Enola Holmes books by Nancy Springer? If your girls liked this, they might enjoy those, too.

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