From the Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series , Vol. 3

Still howling good fun, though the series’ big Reveal doesn’t seem any closer than before.

Resilient as ever, in the third installment of Wood’s deliciously melodramatic Victorian mystery teenage governess Penelope Lumley takes on threats to her wolfish young charges that include a hustler after the Ashton fortune.

The unexpected sighting of an ostrich among the larks and thrushes in the woods near Ashton Place heralds the arrival of bluff Admiral Albert Faucet (“That’s faw-say, my good man. Not faucet”). Once he meets the three feral children Penelope is charged with training up to be human, Faucet’s scheme to finance the introduction of ostrich racing to the British Isles by marrying the Dowager Lady Ashton is transformed to visions of wolf racing and sideshow exhibitions. Fortunately Penelope, proud graduate of the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females, is not only up to that challenge but numerous others. These range from actually riding the aforementioned ostrich and meeting a pack of oversize, strangely intelligent wolves (if wolves they be) to orchestrating a climactic séance designed to contact the Dowager’s first husband, drowned (purportedly) in the medicinal tar pits at Gooden-Baden. Along with gleefully pitching her plucky protagonist into one crisis after another, punctuated by authorial disquisitions on similes, rhetorical questions, contagious punning and other linguistic follies, the author slips in a few more seemingly significant Clues to the Ashtons’ curious history and Penelope’s apparent involvement in it.

Still howling good fun, though the series’ big Reveal doesn’t seem any closer than before. (Melodrama. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0061791185

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2012


The Baudelaire children—Violet, 14, Klaus, 12, and baby Sunny—are exceedingly ill-fated; Snicket extracts both humor and horror from their situation, as he gleefully puts them through one terrible ordeal after another. After receiving the news that their parents died in a fire, the three hapless orphans are delivered into the care of Count Olaf, who “is either a third cousin four times removed, or a fourth cousin three times removed.” The villainous Count Olaf is morally depraved and generally mean, and only takes in the downtrodden yet valiant children so that he can figure out a way to separate them from their considerable inheritance. The youngsters are able to escape his clutches at the end, but since this is the first installment in A Series of Unfortunate Events, there will be more ghastly doings. Written with old-fashioned flair, this fast-paced book is not for the squeamish: the Baudelaire children are truly sympathetic characters who encounter a multitude of distressing situations. Those who enjoy a little poison in their porridge will find it wicked good fun. (b&w illustrations, not seen) (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 1999

ISBN: 0-06-440766-7

Page Count: 162

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1999



The magic of reading is given a refreshingly real twist.

This is the way Pearl’s world ends: not with a bang but with a scream.

Pearl Moran was born in the Lancaster Avenue branch library and considers it more her home than the apartment she shares with her mother, the circulation librarian. When the head of the library’s beloved statue of poet Edna St. Vincent Millay is found to be missing, Pearl’s scream brings the entire neighborhood running. Thus ensues an enchanting plunge into the underbelly of a failing library and a city brimful of secrets. With the help of friends old, uncertainly developing, and new, Pearl must spin story after compelling story in hopes of saving what she loves most. Indeed, that love—of libraries, of books, and most of all of stories—suffuses the entire narrative. Literary references are peppered throughout (clarified with somewhat superfluous footnotes) in addition to a variety of tangential sidebars (the identity of whose writer becomes delightfully clear later on). Pearl is an odd but genuine narrator, possessed of a complex and emotional inner voice warring with a stridently stubborn outer one. An array of endearing supporting characters, coupled with a plot both grounded in stressful reality and uplifted by urban fantasy, lend the story its charm. Both the neighborhood and the library staff are robustly diverse. Pearl herself is biracial; her “long-gone father” was black and her mother is white. Bagley’s spot illustrations both reinforce this and add gentle humor.

The magic of reading is given a refreshingly real twist.   (reading list) (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4521-6952-1

Page Count: 392

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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