Well this one is a total charmer. Maryrose Woods’s The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place somehow manages to be both fresh and comforting as a familiar bedtime story all at once. It’s a tale with elements readers will recognize (orphaned children, mysterious mansion, the poor-but-clever governess), but put together with twists you’ve never encountered before. It is a treat. You must read it.
Miss Penelope Lumley, a recent graduate of the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females gets her first job as a governess at Ashton Place. Too bad the children are wild. Literally. The three Incorrigibles were found in the forest around Ashton Place, and they have disturbingly wolfish behaviours. They howl a lot. They gnaw on things. They go nuts at the sight of squirrels (har har). But Penelope is undaunted. She presses on, aiming to teach them poetry and Latin and table manners because that’s what Swanburne girls do. When the lady of the house announces an upcoming Christmas party, and insists that the children attend, Penelope has a lot on her hands. Will she manage to make her strange charges seem normal by the time the holiday ball arrives?
I loved the quirkiness of this book. The old-fashioned tone and often formal language should appeal to the Lemony Snicket crowd, as well as the ludicrously impossible situation Penelope finds herself in. Jon Klassen’s understated, stylishly simple illustrations make for a beautiful and classic-looking cover (though I’m not so sure about the kid-appeal). The children might not be hugely differentiated, but they steal every scene they’re in. The squirrel episode at the end of the book seems made for the stage or screen. Hilarious.
If you’re feeling squirrely, you should certainly check out the Squirrel Spotter game at the Harper Collins Awesome Adventure page. And – I am going to have to try out the Audiobook because the AMAZING Audie Award-Winning Katherine Kellgren is the performer. Perfection.
The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place is published by Balzer and Bray, an imprint of Harper Collins.