This series was recommended to me by the Cap, of Captain’s Quarters, whose quirky book blogging site regularly uncovers true gems. It was Cap who pointed me in the direction of the glorious Lockwood & Co series, one of my all-time favourite reads of the decade, never mind the year, so when Cap suggested this offering, I scurried off to track it down…
BLURB: 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.
As you can probably tell from the blurb, there are aspects of this book which are very much tongue in cheek, but as with all the best exponents of parody, that doesn’t prevent Wood from serving up a cracking story. I love Penelope Lumley, who epitomises all those undaunted, intelligent governesses who featured so markedly in 18th and 19th century literature.
As she travels to Ashton Place, filled with ideas of teaching the children Latin and geography, she instead discovers they are being housed in a barn, filthy and afraid. Never mind about Latin – they cannot speak at all. Questions about what exactly they are doing running wild in the woods surrounding Ashton Place have to be put on hold as Penelope tackles the business of getting them to eat and drink without making a mess, and teaching them the basic phrases all good mannered children need to know. I love the kindness and empathy she demonstrates – as well as the fact that she clearly loved her time at the Swanburne Academy of Poor Bright Females and very much misses the companionship of her fellow students and her beloved mentor.
I’ve seen comparisons with Lemony Snickett’s series, but there isn’t the sharp-edged darkness here that runs throughout A Series of Unfortunate Events, unless the first book is very much a sheep in wolf’s clothing. As far as I’m concerned, this is another series that is too good to leave to the children, and I’m delighted to report that I’ve just got hold of the second book in the series. Highly recommended for children of all ages who appreciate both the enjoyable story and humour, most of which is clearly aimed at those of us considerably older than the nine-years-old and upwards this book has been written for.