Volume 4 of this funny middle grades series has Penelope, Alexander, Beowulf, and Cassiopeia back in London attempting to save the Swanburne School for Poor Bright Females.
The Unseen Guest (Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place #3) by Maryrose Wood and illustrated by Jon Klassen. HarperCollins, 2012. 340 pages.
Bottom Line: When Lord Ashton’s mother shows up with a noted explorer, the hunt is on in this fast-paced third book of the series.
Although Miss Penelope Lumley has been working her civilizing magic on the three wards of Lord and Lady Ashton, the children (Alexander, Beowulf, and Cassiopeia) still show occasional signs of canine-like behavior. When Lord Ashton’s mother arrives with a famous explorer in tow, the estate is in an uproar as they welcome the guests and the explorer’s ostrich. Penelope receives a mysterious gift that casts her own background in question, the ostrich gets loose, and the explorer wants to hunt more than the ostrich. Alexander, Beowulf, and Cassiopeia want to help hunt the ostrich as well, but Penelope worries they will regress in their behavior if they return to the woods from whence they were originally found. Delightful surprises–some that stretch the readers’ belief–await Penelope, and all’s well that ends well in this third volume. More secrets are hinted to than mysteries solved, and readers will want to keep reading the next book!
About the Series: The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series chronicles Penelope’s attempts to civilize Lord and Lady Ashton’s wards while dodging dangerous situations and learning more about their mysterious parentage (and her own). Fans of the Lemony Snicket books will notice a similar tone in this series as droll, understated asides to the reader pepper the storyline and a self consciously elevated style will have readers in giggles. Threads introduced in the first volume are still being resolved in volume 5; this is a series that must be read in order! The value of all life (human and animal) is a subtle theme running through the series, and no one person is less significant than another regardless of his or her idiosyncrasies. These make delightful read alouds, appeal to both boys and girls, and will strike chords with other children who are also learning at home (whether from a governess or their own parents). Much like in many traditional fairy tales, such as Beauty and the Beast, a family curse is involved. Otherwise, the series reads more like British historical fiction with no outright magic, wizards, or dragons making an appearance.
Cautions: Supernatural (a family curse)
Overall Rating: 4
Other Titles in the Series (to date):