The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
A young governess enters the mysterious Ashton Place to care for three children raised by wolves - can she tame their howling and squirrel-chasing ways?
Miss Penelope Lumley is only fifteen years old, but she has been well-trained to handle emergencies by an excellent upbringing at the Swanburne Home for Poor Bright Females. All her compassion and ingenuity will be called upon to deal with her new charges, siblings Alexander, Beowulf, and Cassiopeia Incorrigible.
The children have a habit of howling and various attitudes toward bathing, but a regime of squirrel desensitization and firm training is intended to prepare them for an all-important Christmas ball that may change their future. At the same time, their new governess is aware of strange undercurrents at Ashton place, especially involving the frequently absent Lord Frederick Ashton and his frivolous young wife Lady Constance.
There are plenty of mysteries left unanswered at the end of this humorous first in the series, which makes the sequels essential. The narrative voice is a less acidic version of Lemony Snicket's all-knowing narrator, with educational asides on vocabulary and the wise sayings of Miss Lumley's Swanburne mentor. A Series of Unfortunate Events books are a great next read, as well as The Wolves Chronicles of Joan Aiken.
"She had chosen Dante because she found the rhyme scheme pleasingly jaunty, but she realized too late that the Inferno's tale of sinner being cruelly punished in the afterlife was much too bloody and disturbing to be suitable for young minds. Penelope could tell this by the way the children hung on her every word and demanded 'More, more!' each time she reached the end of a canto and tried to stop." - 91