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The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: Book I: The Mysterious Howling

Last updated Sunday, February 26, 2012

Author: Maryrose Wood
Illustrator: Jon Klassen
Date of Publication: 2010
ISBN: 0061791059
Grade Level: 5th    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Oct. 2011

Synopsis: From Booklist
*Starred Review* Three unfortunate orphans. A series of unexplained events. A droll offstage narrator. Is any of this starting to sound familiar? Well, yes and no. Although Lemony Snicket’s illustrious crew does come to mind right from the start of this book, there are differences. For instance, these children were raised by wolves. Moreover, they’re not even the protagonists of the Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series. That pride of place goes to Miss Penelope Lumley, their 15-year-old governess, recently graduated from the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females. Penny, who understands commitment, takes in stride her first introduction to her charges, with their near-naked bodies, matted hair, and indecipherable growling. Soon she has them listening to poetry and playing about with Latin, but things are not well at Ashton Place. How Lord Fredrick came upon these children is unclear; who wants them out of Ashton Place means danger; and whether there’s someone living behind the staircase wall is perplexing. Then there are the questions about Penny herself.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  Have you ever moved to a new place or a new school before? How’d you feel when you found out?
•  Do you like surprises? What kind of surprises do you like/do you dislike?
•  How do you think you would act if you had different parents or a different family? Would you act different?

•  Incorrigible-extremely hard to change or correct
•  Brusquely-bluntly, quickly
•  Burnished-glossy, shiny
•  Pertly-boldly, acting or talking with a lot of self-confidence
•  Methodically-performing an action in a set, systematic, or deliberate way
•  Bicuspid-teeth in the middle of your mouth
•  Unkempt-messy, neglected
•  Enigmatic-mysterious, perplexing
•  Elusive-extremely hard to catch or understand
•  Hyperbole-a huge exaggeration

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  Do you like animals? Would you rather babysit animals or children?
•  Do you think Mrs. Constance’s behavior towards the children is normal? How would you act towards them?
•  Do you know the origin of your name? Who picked your name for you? Would you want to change your name?
•  Do you think Penny can teach the children to act like children? Why/Why not?

Craft ideas:
•  1. Draw a portrait of yourself. Have the kids create a frame that can be cut out and mounted on colored construction paper.
•  2. Put together a poetry book and begin writing your own poems. A poetry book can be made by folding the paper widthwise. Fold it in half again, so you have a four page booklet. Cut along the folds of the booklet. Be careful not to cut all the way in order to maintain the spine.

Special activities:
•  Miss Lumley and the children learn to dance the schottische, a popular folk dance of the time. Teach your class how to do a folk dance. This website has great teacher support for this activity: http://www.uen.org/Lessonplan/preview.cgi?LPid=16243

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don’t have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!