Mary's Reviews > The Mysterious Howling

The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood
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Jan 25, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: middle-school-books

This is one of those books for children that is an enjoyable adult read. Lord Ashton, an avid hunter, apparently found in his woods three young children who had been abandoned to be raised by wolves. Lady Constance, his young and new wife hires Penelope Lumley to be their governess, though it isn't clear that anyone expects her to succeed in taming these wild children - let alone teach them Latin. Penelope, 15, is a graduate of Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females, an optimist, and fond of animals - especially ponies. Without knowing them, Lord Ashton names the three children Alexander (~10 years old), Beowulf (~8 years old), and Cassiopeia (~4 years old) Incorrigible. The title of this book is misleading, since the only reference to a mysterious howling occurs late in the book, and isn't explored. Rather, the plot revolves around whether Miss Lumawoo will be able to teach the children enough for them to be presented at Lady Constance's first party as the mistress of Ashton Manor. I enjoyed the literary references and allusions (Jane Eyre, Dickens, Sherlock Holmes, Longfellow, etc.), and the humorous asides with which Wood defines terms and concepts that are likely to be unfamiliar to young readers. However, I wonder how children without a background familiarity with the literature will respond to this story. It is continued in a second book, necessarily, since there are a number of questions unresolved: what was howling in the attic, and why was the door papered over? Why does the coachman lurk silently, observing? Who wrote the note to the Leed's theatrical group seeming to want to sabotage the party? How did the squirrel get in? Why has Penelope spent years unknowingly using a hair rinse that makes her auburn hair dull dark brown? What exactly is Lord Ashton's interest in these children?
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