YRCA 2013 Review: The Mysterious Howling

So The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood, nominee in the Junior Division. I loved this book.

This book is about three young children who were raised by wolves and the young governess hired to civilize them. But it’s so much more than that. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this book and was pleasantly surprised by, first, how amusing it was, second, how clever it was, and, third, how much depth there was to the story. This could have been a very straightforward story, aimed at kids to make them laugh but instead it’s a story that will appeal to kids but will also grown with them. I can see someone reading this story several times as a kid, then a teen, then an adult and seeing something more in it.

The characters are well crafted as well. I wasn’t expecting Penelope, the governess, to be so young, only fifteen, but it gives her a very interesting twist. She’s so practical and a great teacher but at the same time she has a romantic side that leads her to flights of fancy, although only in her thoughts. Like at the beginning of the book when she is taking the train to Ashton Place and she secretly fears and excited by the prospect of the train being robbed by bandits. There is also a vulnerability to her because this is her first job and she is homesick for the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females which is the only home she remembers. The kids are also very interesting. Each one is an individual with their own personality and they are all ridiculously smart. They have no language skills at the start of the story but Penelope is teaching them English from poetry and math and geography and they are picking it all up really fast. In a more serious story, this would be annoying but, because of the tone of this book, it works. And there’s more going on then just her training the children, there’s also the mystery of Lord Ashton’s true motives for taking the kids in, the mystery of Penelope’s background, and the mystery of someone trying to sabotage the kids’ progress.

My favourite quote from the book: “As you may know, complimentary remarks of this type are all too often made by well-meaning adults to children who are, to be frank, perfectly ordinary-looking. This practice of overstating the case is called hyperbole. Hyperbole is usually harmless, but in some cases it has been known to precipitate unnecessary wars as well as a painful gaseous condition called stock market bubbles. For safety’s sake, then, hyperbole should be used with restraint and only by those with the proper literary training.”

Will this book win the Junior Division? As much as I loved this book, the answer is probably no. Origami Yoda has been pretty popular from what I’ve seen and The Lost Hero was pretty awesome.

What I’ve I’m reading right now: Hearts and Swords by Robin D. Owens and A History of Britain: at the Edge of the World? 3000 B.C.-A.D.1603 by Simon Schama (audiobook).

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