Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Mysterious Howling

Wood, Maryrose. 2010. THE MYSTERIOUS HOWLING. Ill. by Jon Klassen. New York. HarperCollins. ISBN 9780061791055 [Suggested Grade Levels 4-8]

The Mysterious Howling is one of the funniest novels of the year-- sly, witty, and tongue-in-cheek. Miss Penelope Lumley has taken her first position as governess at Ashton Place, an elegant estate with considerable land. She has been hired to care for three children who have been raised by wolves. The lady of the house is terrified of the children and the lord of the manor inexplicably wants to present these strange children to his social group. It is up to Miss Lumley, recent graduate of the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females, to civilize the youngsters so that they are not embarrassed in front of the hoity-toity at the Christmas ball.

Much of the humor comes from the expectations that Miss Lumley has for her charges and the surprising consequences that result from her endeavors. Penelope decides to introduce Dante’s INFERNO to the three children. The reader is perplexed with the governess’s choice, thinking that the illiterate trio will never understand such highbrow text. But we are mistaken. The children not only understand the plotline which Penelope realizes too late might be “too bloody and disturbing for young minds,” but the children demand “More, more!” every time she tries to stop.

This is the first novel in the series THE INCORRIGIBLE CHILDREN OF ASHTON PLACE so readers are left wanting much, much more.

Invite children to converse in the “Incorrigible-way”-- adding “awoo” to the first syllable of words. Try not to break out laughing.

Other novels that feature orphans:
Aiken, Joan. THE WOLVES OF WILLOUGHBY CHASE. ISBN 978-0440496038
Snicket, Lemony. THE BAD BEGINNING. ISBN 978-0064407663

By Cay Geisler

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