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.
But mysteries abound at Ashton Place: Who are these three wild creatures, and how did they come to live in the vast forests of the estate? Why does Old Timothy, the coachman, lurk around every corner? Will Penelope be able to teach the Incorrigibles table manners and socially useful phrases in time for Lady Constance’s holiday ball? And what on earth is a schottische?
School Library Journal says:
Starred Review, grades 5-8. Jane Eyre meets Lemony Snicket in this smart, surprising satire of a 19th-century English governess story. A witty omniscient narrator speaks directly to modern readers and follows 15-year-old Penelope, recent graduate of the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females, to British country manor Ashton Place, where conniving Lord Fredrick has discovered three wild children apparently raised by wolves while hunting in his vast forest property. To Lord Fredrick, who’s named them Alexander, Beowulf, and Cassiopeia Incorrigible, the children are trophies and property (“Finder’s keepers, what?”); to young Lady Constance they’re savage nuisances who howl, chase squirrels, and gnaw on shoes.
Enter Penelope Lumley, charged with taming them in time for a Christmas party, and bolstered by her top-notch classical education and an endless supply of platitudes from Agatha Swanburne. She also comes armed with a cherished book of poetry and her favorite fiction series, “Giddy-Yap, Rainbow!” There are stock characters, and there are mysteries. Most of all, without taking itself too seriously, there is commentary on writing itself, the dangers and the benefits of relying on books for moral courage, and the perils of drawing false expectations of the world from literature.
Of especially naughty children it is sometimes said, “They must have been raised by wolves.”
The Incorrigible children actually were.
Thanks to the efforts of Miss Penelope Lumley, their plucky governess, Alexander, Beowulf, and Cassiopeia are much more like children than wolf pups now. They are accustomed to wearing clothes. They hardly ever howl at the moon. And for the most part, they resist the urge to chase squirrels up trees.
Despite Penelope’s civilizing influence, the Incorrigibles still managed to ruin Lady Constance’s Christmas ball, nearly destroying the grand house. So while Ashton Place is being restored, Penelope, the Ashtons, and the children take up residence in London. Penelope is thrilled, as London offers so many opportunities to further the education of her unique students. But the city presents challenges, too, in the form of the palace guards’ bearskin hats, which drive the children wild—not to mention the abundance of pigeons the Incorrigibles love to hunt. As they explore London, however, they discover more about themselves as clues about the children’s—and Penelope’s—mysterious past crop up in the most unexpected ways. . . .
Since returning from London, the three Incorrigible children and their plucky governess, Miss Penelope Lumley, have been exceedingly busy. Despite their wolfish upbringing, the children have taken up bird-watching, with no unfortunate consequences—yet. And a perplexing gift raises hard questions about how Penelope came to be left at the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females and why her parents never bothered to return for her.
But hers is not the only family mystery to solve. When Lord Fredrick’s long-absent mother arrives with the noted explorer Admiral Faucet, gruesome secrets tumble out of the Ashton family tree. And when the admiral’s prized racing ostrich gets loose in the forest, it will take all the Incorrigibles’ skills to find her.
The hunt for the runaway ostrich is on. But Penelope is worried. Once back in the wild, will the children forget about books and poetry and go back to their howling, wolfish ways? What if they never want to come back to Ashton Place at all?