The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place – by Maryrose Wood – Books One and Two

8466286ATTENTION, MIDDLE GRADERS. Laugh your way through “The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Mysterious Howling,” by Maryrose Wood (Balzer & Bray 2010), a story about three children who have been raised by wolves. Like all good puppies, Alexander, Beowulf, and Cassiopeia try to please their people. And who wouldn’t want to please their young governess Penelope Lumley, trained at the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females. (You’ll wish you had a governess just like Penelope). (I do).

Penelope’s story is told with tongue held firmly in cheek, meaning it’s a satire, meaning that the author is poking fun at manners and rich people, specifically, but not exclusively, of 19th Century British society.

When Penelope’s students are nipping and rolling on the carpet, or howling and panting in the nursery, she must forgo teaching Latin and Geography in favor of table manners, proper introductions (“may I take your umbrella?”) as well as bows and curtsies, in time to present them at the Ashton Place Christmas Ball. But something goes amiss at the party. Who is trying to sabotage the children’s best efforts causing them to behave wolfishly and creating mayhem? And why?

Even the villains are delightful, in their own ways. For instance, Lady Constance Ashton, their mother figure of sorts, is in favor of sending the children to an orphanage so that they might take their “rightful place as burdens on society.” On another occasion she declares she is “tragically late for a luncheon engagement.” You can use these lines and many others with your friends, as I certainly will be doing.

Sprinkled throughout are pithy dollops of wisdom, having been spoken by the academy’s founder, Agatha Swanburne—such as, “When things are looking up there’s no point in looking elsewhere.”

6609748Forgive me when I say, you’ll be howling for more. And you’re in luck. In #2 “The Hidden Gallery” (2011), the Incorrigibles are whisked away from their country estate to London where they meet Simon Harley-Dickerson who aids Penelope and the children in her search for a hidden gallery in the British Museum. Why must they find it? Who is directing them there? Could Penelope’s long lost parents still be alive?

The entire family will be delighted by a read-aloud of the Incorrigibles after dinner. I take full responsibility if you don’t laugh your socks off.


Patricia Hruby Powell ( is a nationally touring speaker, dancing storyteller, substitute librarian and children’s book author.

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9 comments on “The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place – by Maryrose Wood – Books One and Two
  1. Ever since reading about Mowgli in the Jungle Book, I’ve always been fascinated by stories about children raised in the wild, especially the real-life accounts. This book sounds like a hoot, and I’m certainly going to check it out and read it with my kids. I’m glad to learn about it and look forward to howling!

  2. Theresa Herman says:

    You mention that “the entire family” will enjoy the “Incorrigibles.” Certainly it’s a joy for any older person to dip back into good literature for the younger set. However, how about the issue of dipping up? I find it’s easy to get into trouble with a younger readers who have reading capacity beyond their grade level, but not emotional capacity, life experience or world knowledge to process books for middle years. Books that fit this group are not easy to come by. Most times one can tell by the subject matter, as in your previously reviewed “Storyteller,” whether a book will fit younger readers, but if certain books you are reviewing for middle years would be appropriate for read-aloud or read-alone for younger readers as well, that information would be useful. Thanks and I’m looking forward to more of your witty and spirit-filled reviews.

  3. Theresa,
    Ah, emotionally-sound books for precocious readers–for young young readers. Such a good question 🙂

    The demographics of our town, Champaign, universityville,
    surely has an IQ of, well, let’s say,
    So as a librarian at Urbana Free Library,
    (even though I only work occasionally as a sub–
    I’ve been doing it for a hundred years, well more like 18 years, geesh, that’s impossible)
    I know this is a frequently asked question.

    And yes, I’ll tell you what I think–
    a subjective opinion, of course.

    In STORYTELLER, there’s a scene in which the mother of the historic character Zee, is slain as part of the Revolutionary War. So it’s history, it’s the past, it’s a bit removed from a child’s experience. And whereas it’s not graphic, it’s surely imaginable, and I as a child (of any age) would have been mortified. So it depends upon the sensitivity of your gorgeous precocious daughter (whose name slips me at the moment)–(which is just as well) and what you would want her subjected to.
    (To the extent that you can control)
    (Okay, I seem to be going on a tangent)

    And THE INCORRIGIBLES is a definite rah rah yes–for the whole family. Kids of ALL ages–yep, that’s us too) will love the different levels and angles of humor. I mean it is really funny. Particularly the first one. But both. Let me know what you think, T.

    And Jackson, you are just about the most talented howler I know. Ahoooooooo! (Was that a good howl? I mean, how was that?)
    And that was my Best,

    So this is kind of fun, but my plan was to WRITE today. On my Lil Hardin Armstrong biography. And I’m gonna.

  4. Robin says:

    I love your new blog, Patricia. I may have to take up reading middle grade novels now. Congratulations!

  5. Judy Hawn says:

    I love it, too, Patricia. I’ll have to look for these books at our library, just for fun.

  6. Beth says:

    You’re so right: I wish I had a governess just like Penelope, too!

  7. Sheila Welch says:

    I really enjoyed reading both of these reviews and your responses to comments. I’ll be visiting your blog often since I am already a reader of middle-grade books and am always looking for more. How are you selecting books to review? Do they have to be new? I am a fan of Hilary McKay (not sure of spelling) who wrote SAFFY’S ANGEL. Also love Kevin Henkes’s middle -grade novels — in particular OLIVE’S OCEAN, WORDS OF STONE, and SAVING MARIE.

    • Theresa Herman says:

      I love Kevin Henkes books too. Pretty much every single one. Got hooked through Lily in his picture books and then in addition to the ones you mention, enjoyed Bird Lake Moon and The Birthday Room as well. Wonderful stories.

  8. I can’t tell you how glad I am that you adults are reading these books. They are just plain good books. Please let me (and everyone else) know what you think once you’ve read them. That is, spread the word.

    Sheila, I LOVE Hilary McKay’s books. In the SAFFY’S ANGEL book series the kids in the family are named after paint colors (Saffron, Cadmium, Indigo, Rose–because their mother is an artist) and they each get their own book. I hope that works as a tease.

    I agree that Kevin Henkes is another master. And yes, the books I’ll be reviewing are new books. In the comment section here, is a great place to introduce more books. Thanks, reading-writing, Sheila.

    How do I choose the books I review? By browsing the “New Shelf” at both our public libraries’; by recommendation from librarians; starred reviews in library journals; prize and honor books. As matter of fact, coming May 22 are two Pura Belpré (Latino literature award) honor books about Cuba.é_Medal plus a discussion with Cuban American storyteller/children’s author Antonio Sacre.

    And thanks, Robin, Judy, and Beth for reading, liking 😉 and commenting.

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