Miss Penelope Lumley is a graduate of the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females and a firm believer in the philosophical saying of its founder, Agatha Swanburne. Though only fifteen years old, Penelope has become the governess of three lively children who, as it turns out, have quite a few canine tendencies! She adores animals, obscure poetry, and the Giddy-Yap, Rainbow! books.
The Incorrigible Children
The children were discovered on the Ashton estate by Lord Ashton himself during a hunting expedition. Their origins are quite a mystery. The children are:
Alexander, the eldest Incorrigible, keeps his siblings in line with gentle nips. He has a particular fascination with navigation.
Beowulf, the middle child, is alarmingly adept at chasing squirrels. His hobbies include art and gnawing.
Cassiopeia, the youngest and wildest Incorrigible, has a bark that is (usually) worse than her bite. She is fierce and has an aptitude for mathematics.
Lord Fredrick Ashton
Lord Ashton is an avid hunter who stalks such animals as fox, deer, hares, badgers, and all manner of birds. Though he is newly married to Lady Ashton, he spends quite a bit of time at his gentlemen’s club rather than at home.
Lady Constance Ashton
Lady Ashton is quite fond of chocolates and flowers. She is young, pretty, and a bit on the spoiled side. Although she is now the guardian of three young children, her maternal instincts leave something to be desired.
Widow Hortense Ashton
The Widow Ashton is Lord Fredrick’s formidable mother. She wears a pince-nez, is kind to Penelope and the children, and strikes fear into her daughter-in-law, Lady Constance. She remains in mourning for her late husband, Lord Edward.
Admiral Faucet is the Widow Ashton’s distinguished-looking beau. A famous explorer of Parts Unknown, he has white mutton-chop sideburns, carries a walking stick, and wears a pith helmet. He would be the first to remind you that his name is pronounced faw-say.
Judge Quinzy, the new chap in Lord Fredrick’s gentlemen’s club, remarkably manages never to show what he is thinking. He has coarse, jet-black hair, a shapeless nose, and thick glasses, though he walks with an energetic, feline spring. He may not be who he claims to be.
Miss Charlotte Mortimer is the headmistress of the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females and a friend and mentor to Penelope, whom she calls Penny. Upright and enigmatic, Charlotte takes her name from Charlotte Brontë, the creator of that other famous governess, Jane Eyre.
Simon Harley-Dickinson, a special friend of Penelope’s, is a London-based young playwright who comes from sailor stock and has a knack for navigation. He inspires the observation in Penelope that “boys must be a thoroughly delightful species.”
Mrs. Clarke, head housekeeper of Ashton Place, is a kind-faced, square-built woman of middle age. A friend to Penelope, she wears a great ring of keys upon her ample hips and eventually takes up jogging to get herself in better shape.
Old Timothy, the enigmatic coachman, has worked for the Ashtons since Lord Fredrick was a boy. The silent type, Old Timothy is gruff, wizened, and full of secrets, and he always seems to turn up at the most unexpected times.
Dr. Westminster is a country veterinarian with a kind manner. He lives in a gingerbread-style chicken coop cottage at the Swanburne Academy, where he trains chickens to dance. Dr. Westminster recommends a judicious use of treats when training animals and young children.
Married to Baron Hoover, Baroness Hoover is a trustee of the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females. She created the tedious Defense of Definitude Office (or DODO) and led the charge to change the name of the Swanburne Academy to the School for Miserable Girls. She frequently frowns.
Penelope’s round-cheeked, pig-tailed best friend from school days is Cecily Longstocking. A whiz at languages, Cecily is known for her talent as a mimic and her ability to emit bloodcurdling screams on command.
A languages teacher at the Swanburne Academy, Magistra Grimsby is an angular, ageless woman. Like her Swanburne colleagues, she dispenses nuggets of pithy wisdom—often in Latin, which she speaks as if it were her native tongue.
A beloved history teacher at Swanburne, Mrs. Apple is an energetic woman with full red cheeks worthy of her name. Her knack for delivering long lectures (on short notice) is legendary. She’s the sort of teacher who puts on a toga to talk about Ancient Rome.
Podcast: Learn the secrets of Ashton Place from Maryrose Wood!
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Applause for the Series
"It's the best beginning since [Lemony Snicket's] The Bad Beginning and will leave readers howling for the next episode."—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"How hearty and delicious. Smartly written with a middle-grade audience
in mind, this is both fun and funny and sprinkled with dollops of
wisdom."—ALA Booklist (starred review)
"With a Snicketesque affect, Wood's narrative propels the drama.
Pervasive humor and unanswered questions should have readers begging for
more."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Jane Eyre meets Lemony Snicket in this smart, surprising satire of a
nineteenth-century English governess story. Frequent plate-sized
illustrations add wit and period flair."—School Library Journal (starred review)
"[A] most excellent adventure."—ALA Booklist (starred review)
"Plot twists out of Charlotte Brontë or Arthur Conan Doyle keep the
action absorbing even while the narration is thoroughly
tongue-in-cheek."—New York Times Book Review