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"A smaller percentage of 17 year olds saw adults reading in their homes in 1999 than in 1984."
Publisher: Balzer and Bray, an Imprint of HarperColling Publishers,
Material: hard cover
Summary: As our story opens, Miss Penelope Lumley is bringing her fine Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females to Ashton Place, the estate of Lord Frederick and Lady Constance. It seems that during a hunting expedition, Lord Frederick found three children - two boys and a girl - who had apparently been raised by wolves. Lord Frederick views them as his prizes, and has named them Alexander, Beowulf, and Cassiopeia Incorrigible (since they cannot have the last name "Ashton," of course!) Miss Lumley, their new governess, is charged with transforming these children and quick. Lady Constance has grand plans for a Christmas Day party, and everything must be perfect - including the children! Can Penelope minimize the woof's and amp up the Latin? We shall see. This is a stylized mystery-humor story set in Victorian England.
Type of Reading: bedtime story, family reading, anytime reading, independent reading, read aloud book
Recommended Age: read together: 9 to 13; read yourself: 11 and up
Adult Reader Reaction: This was a fun book to read. I loved the author's asides, explanations of how English works, and the over-the-top characters. That said, I was also disturbed by the references to "hunting" the children with rifles. Although they are likely meant to be humorous, the presentation leaves a HUGE question about it. This is not a book for every audience.
Pros: Beautiful, descriptive writing; an air of mystery; and a nursery filled with a wonderful governess and three eager children combine in a great story for reading aloud.
Cons: Adults will enjoy the references, but kids will need some "seasoning" and a sense of history to get the full benefit of it.
Borrow or Buy: Borrow, at least. This is fun to read, but given the amount of humor and the number of asides, it is probably a matter of taste. If you like it with the first read, you'll want to purchase it. I suspect you'll need Book 1 handy when Book 2 arrives on the shelves.
Educational Themes: There are a number of themes. Some come from the story itself: family; culture and society in Victorian England; and relationships. There are far more things to be explored when you start delving into the many asides the author offers: how language works (or doesn't), cliche, history, theater. The end offers a "to be continued" that is perfect for letting readers predict events for individuals and Ashton Place itself.
Notes: The publisher donated a copy of this book knowing that we would consider it for review and provide an independent, unbiased profile. This book will be given to a nonprofit to help readers in need.
Literary Categories: Fiction - mystery, humor, family, middle grade series