The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place by Maryrose Wood
May 9, 2013
On Tuesday of this week, the members of the Children’s Book Hub had the treat of hearing Emma interview author Maryrose Wood, who writes both middle grade and YA fiction. In preparation for this interview, I began reading her middle grade series, The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, and I have been devouring it. Well, perhaps ‘devouring’ is a questionable choice of verb, since the tagline for the series is
Of especially naughty children it is sometimes said: “They must have been raised by wolves.”
The Incorrigible children actually were.
Written in a hilarious takeoff of the style of novels of the Victorian era, the series tells of Miss Penelope Lumley, a recent graduate of the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females, who takes a position as governess, only to find when she arrives at Ashton Place to take up employment that her charges are three unkempt barking, howling children with a propensity for chasing squirrels — for snacks.
Fortunately, Penelope has been steeped in the wisdom of Agatha Swanburne, the founder of the Academy for PBFs, and knows (in Miss Swanburne’s own words) “No hopeless case is truly without hope.” She begins to tame the children, to gain their trust, and to teach them, despite odd and sometimes frightening occurrences that lead her to believe the children are being … hunted.
The series is planned to have six books, with the first three currently available. With seemingly effortless humor (which, of course, is really very carefully crafted with just the right words being used at just the right time), Maryrose spins a tale that alternately chills the spine and tickles the funny bone. The books are set in the Victorian era, and are true to life — but are interspersed with a narrator’s asides that contrast modern thought and action with that of the book’s era to hilarious effect.
Although each book has its own plot arc, and has a satisfying ending, there is also much that draws the reader toward the next book as all that is going on involving the children will not be revealed until the final book — and more clues and puzzlements are scattered along the path throughout each book so that the reader needs to keep his or her nose to the trail to eventually track down all the mysteries that are introduced along the way.
I have read the first book, The Mysterious Howling, and am well along in the second, The Hidden Gallery. The third, The Unseen Guest, awaits me. Then I shall have to pace about like a circling wolf (and I will likely let out a mournful ah-woooo or two) as I shall have to wait until mid-December of this year for book four, The Interrupted Tale, to be released.
The interview Emma did with Maryrose was excellent — Maryrose has a theatre background, and is a playwright as well as writing for children and young adults. Her fiction covers many subjects besides children who were, at least from all appearances, raised by wolves. She is well-spoken and has a delightful sense of humor. If you’re not part of the Children’s Book Hub, do not worry nor gnash your teeth, because Emma also interviewed Maryrose for a recent Writers Speak evening at Stony Brook Southampton University, and the interview can be seen here. Do click that link, because besides a wonderful and insightful interview, you’ll also hear an excerpt of the first Incorrigibles book, read delightfully by Maryrose.
Maryrose will be teaching the middle grade fiction workshop at this year’s Stony Brook Southampton Children’s Literature Conference. I am quite sure that will be a valuable — and fun — learning experience for the participants.
To learn more about Maryrose and her books, as well as to see a trailer for the Incorrigibles series, you can check out her website at www.maryrosewood.com or click through to The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place site (link on her site) to learn more about the series. There are also games — I’m pretty good at the first level of The Squirrel Spotter, but those pesky things move too fast for me in the second level!
The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place. There is only one word that can fully describe the delight I find in this series… Ah-WOOOOOOOOOOO!