Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, Book 2: The Hidden Gallery. Written by Maryrose Wood and illustrated by Jon Klassen. Balzer & Bray, Harper. 2011. $16.99 ages 8 and up
"A chance encounter with a pickpocket on a train, a greedy scoundrel in front of Buckingham Palace, a strange remark from a fortune-teller, a mistress in high dudgeon - these were life's minor annoyances, and Penelope knew better than to make too much of them."
I was very excited to get the second book in the Incorrigible Children series. I so enjoyed the first one, and wondered what might have happened following the fiasco at Lady Ashton's soiree. The wolfish (and so endearing) children have created chaos since their discovery in the woods. The house remains a mess, and the decision is made that the family will move to London while repairs are completed.
Lady Constance is consumed with thoughts of parties, invitations and shopping. She is sure to be the talk of the town; her one concern is that the three children may spoil those plans. Penelope, the children's governess and advocate, will be accompanying the family and Lady Ashley will be counting on her to keep them in check. They still love to howl at the moon, and chase squirrels. Under Penelope's tutelage they are also learning about the greater world:
"The children, on the other hand, were now wonderfully energized. They argued about where to go next.
"St. James's Park!"
"The British Mew-eezum!" Cassiopeia suggested, adorably mispronouncing the word."
With their arrival in London, life changes dramatically. There are mysteries afoot, and questions to be asked and answered. Penelope plans on meeting her mentor from the Academy, on showing her charges the many educational opportunities that London affords and on continuing in her attempts to learn about the childrens' past, and also her own. There are coincidences to consider, not the least of which is Lord Fredrick Ashley's somewhat strange behavior:
"Penelope and the children watched Lord Fredrick in fascination. Even in the span of these few minutes, his twitching, scratching, and grunting had become more pronounced. So much so that Lady Constance, who rarely paid close attention to other people, had no choice but to notice."
The adventure continues with a visit to the theatre, a pirate chase, a fortune teller, a concealed door and a hidden gallery. Along with the discoveries come more questions. As we leave them for a second time, we know that their story must continue. I know I will be front of the line when the third instalment is released. There is so much more I want to know about Penelope and these lively and charming children.
While I would love to regale you with the many bits of advice afforded Penelope through Miss Agatha Swanburne's influence at the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females, I will leave you with just two:
“Few would waste a perfectly good sandwich; why waste a perfectly good mind?’ and
“When things are looking up, there’s no point in looking elsewhere."
And finally a quote from the author herself:
"Book 3 of the series is called The Unseen Guest. In it, Lord Fredrick Ashton’s mother pays an unexpected visit, and secrets will tumble out of the family tree quicker than you can say “mysterawoo.” As Agatha Swanburne once said, “Sunny days are all very well, but sometimes it take a full moon to shed light on the subject.”
Original, charming, humorous and oh, so entertaining. Ahwoooooooo!