Grade: 4 stars out of 5
Summary: “Found running wild in the forest of Ashton Place, the Incorrigibles are no ordinary children: Alexander, age ten or thereabouts, keeps his siblings in line with gentle nips; Cassiopeia, perhaps four or five, has a bark that is (usually) worse than her bite; and Beowulf, age somewhere-in-the-middle, is alarmingly adept at chasing squirrels.
Luckily, Miss Penelope Lumley is no ordinary governess. Only fifteen years old and a recent graduate of the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females, Penelope embraces the challenge of her new position. Though she is eager to instruct the children in Latin verbs and the proper use of globes, first she must help them overcome their canine tendencies.
But mysteries abound at Ashton Place: Who are these three wild creatures, and how did they come to live in the vast forests of the estate? Why does Old Timothy, the coachman, lurk around every corner? Will Penelope be able to teach the Incorrigibles table manners and socially useful phrases in time for Lady Constance's holiday ball? And what on earth is a schottische?”
Review: The Mysterious Howling was wickedly funny, whimsically amusing, and delightfully charming. Now that was an onslaught of adjectives that mean absolutely! Hopefully with the proper citations and enough batting of the eyelashes you’ll be swayed.
The Mysterious Howling shows great promise and, like what many book critics have been saying, this promise is akin to Lemony Snicket. Their styles are very similar with their sympathetic, humorous tone and light-hearted mood set against a rather dark and twisted theme. Here is a [rather lengthy] quote of a passage from the book:
‘“You,” she said, looking at the eldest boy, “are to be called Alexander. Can you say it? Alexander,” she prompted again, clearly.
“Alawoooooo,” he repeated.
“Very good!” She glanced at the card, “It says here, you are named after ‘Alexander the Great, the legendary commander who mercilessly conquered the Persian Empire and was said to drink too much wine.’ Hmm. That is an odd choice.”
“Alawooooo!” he said, with feeling.
“As for you,” she said, turning to the smaller boy, “you are to be called Beowulf. ‘Beowulf was a fearless warrior of old, who slew monsters and dragons until he met a bloody and violent end.’ A most unsavory namesake, in my opinion, but that is what Lord Ashton has written here. Can you say Beowulf?”
“Beowoooooo,” the boy said proudly.
“Excellent,” Penelope praised. “And now for our littlest pupil. Heavens! It appears that Lord Ashton has named you—well, let me read it. ‘Cassiopeia, after the vain and arrogant queen of the ancient Greeks who tried to sacrifice her own daughter to the sea gods.’ How dreadful! But it will have to do.” She was about to ask the little girl to repeat her name, but the clever child had been watching the other and beat Penelope to the task.
“Cassawoof!” she yelped. “Woof! Woof!”’
—excerpt from pages 54-55
Yikes! I was not expecting to copy an entire page from the book. At any rate I realize that this passage is not a great example of the characterization in the book, my fault. In The Mysterious Howling each and every character shines; they are distinctive, charming (it their own special little way), and full of personality. Rather than grouping people together, which I have done countless times especially when concerning books that are similar, there is a sense of individuality that makes them who they are.
However there are issues. Despite the recommended reading group for the novel to be for middle school students I believe that maybe some of the older generation will appreciate the book more. The Mysterious Howling is very appropriate to children don't worry, but how well it will hold their attention may be the issue. Some of the diction, motifs, and even the heaviness of the dialogues and narration at times may be troublesome for some students. (It's rare but it still occurs). There is even an issue of the protagonist being the age of 15—(older than the recommended age group). How well the children will relate to and understand the story will just depend on the child’s level of reading though.
But! the illustration accompanying the novel was just splendid! If you like the artistic style of the cover then you’ll love the illustrations. It fits quite well with the quirkiness of the novel.
Overall: So our class just had a guest speaker for Women’s Day today and she told us that when she hired, her employers called her “a delightful wack-job”. I feel as though this book is exactly that! It was a delightful, but strange all the while. I
It’s a very good representation of the novel with a color scheme I adore (I like the more earthy tones) that demonstrates the potential of the book nicely.