Original Publication Year: 2011
Genre(s): Historical Middle Grade Fantasy
Series:The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place #1
Awards:NANarrated by: Katherine Kellgren
Miss Penelope Lumley is a young lady who has just graduated from the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females and been offered her first job as governess. It is at the very grand Ashton Place but the position is a little mysterious - the advertisement required applicants to be good with animals and as she arrives at her new place of employment everyone shiftily avoids telling her anything about the children she is to take charge of. Nevertheless, Penelope soon discovers that she has been hired to teach a group of three children given the name Incorrigible who were recently discovered in the woods surrounding Ashton Place being raised by wolves. The lord of the manor has some special interest in the children, much to his flighty wife's dismay, so Penelope is hired and turns out to be the perfect teacher and caretaker for the three wayward children.
My thoughts on The Mysterious Howling can be summed up with two words - delightful and charming. Penelope Lumley is what I imagine a younger version of Mary Poppins might be like - unflappable, a little in awe of her employers though able to stand up to them, practical and loving. When she feels nervous or anxious about anything, the rather hilarious but wise sayings of her school's founder, Miss Agatha Swanburne, guide her through. The cover art pretty much perfectly captures the feel of the book which is whimsical and slyly witty and Victorian in tone. This first story introduces the three children and begins their education to enter proper society and culminates in their first test - a society Ball. Along the way a number of mysteries pop up - who exactly ARE these children and how did they end up in the woods? Why is the lord of the manor so adamant about keeping them? What is the cause of the mysterious noises coming from behind certain walls? Who exactly is Penelope and why must she wash her hair with a special rinse provided by her headmistress? It's just so darn fun and adorable but not cloyingly so.
I need to give special recognition to the audio for this book narrated by Katherine Kellgren which is utterly perfect. I will definitely be reading the rest of the series by audio because her performance and voice are perfect. It's hard to explain but the children, as they learn to talk, have some funny speech quirks consistent with being raised by wolves (there's a lot of wooos and woofs) and Kellgren seems to have a complete blast with this. I often found myself repeating how she voiced certain things because it just sounded so fun. The link above takes you to the Goodreads page which includes an audio sample which will give you a good taste for the narration as well as the book itself.
FINAL VERDICT: Totally and completely charming especially the audio version! 4 out of 5 Stars.