The Hidden Gallery

by Maryrose Wood

{ 2011 | Balzer + Bray | 320 pgs }

As the second book in Wood’s The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series, The Hidden Gallery provides a few more answers about those incorrigible children. There’s still plenty of mystery, but I felt that the plot here had much more direction than did the first book. Writing: good. Illustrations: good. Read the first, read the second. Then wait for the third to come out!

Buy The Hidden Gallery on Amazon

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place

Book I: The Mysterious Howling
by Maryrose Wood

{ 2010 | Balzer + Bray | 272 pgs }

This children’s book satisfactorily answers the question, What would happen if I combined Lemony Snicket and P. L. Travers? (Oh, come on. P. L. Travers wrote the Mary Poppins books.) I first picked it up because I heard it had phenomenal illustrations by Jon Klassen. And then I had to pick up the second book – it’s a series! – because the first was so enjoyable. And the third – well, it hasn’t been written yet.

Our main character, Penelope Lumley, is a recent graduate of Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females, and has been offered a position as governess at Ashton Place. If you weren’t sold by the time you read “Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females,” maybe this isn’t the book for you. But I loved it. The writing style falls somewhere between intriguing and flippant – is there a word for that? It’s very Lemony Snicket, only more fun. It isn’t quite so sinister (yet).

I’m always a little hesitant to start reading a new series of books, particularly one still in progress. The Mysterious Howling leaves a lot of loose ends and doesn’t necessarily work on its own. I feel almost like none of the questions raised during the book were answered, and there was no real closure – the best you get is a sort of “Miss Lumley resolved to face the uncertain future with optimism.” Which, really, doesn’t mean much, and seems like a way of ending the book without a real ending.

That being said, the second book, The Hidden Gallery, was published this year, so you can at least read the first two books of the series. I don’t mean to suggest that you avoid the series until it’s complete – but be aware that these are not self-contained stories by any means.

Buy The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place on Amazon