After I listened to Book 1 in The Incorrigible Children series, The Mysterious Howling (linked to my thoughts), I had to get the audiobook for Book 2: The Hidden Gallery. The children are not called incorrigible because they are disobedient, but their benefactor, Lord Ashton, has given them that name after he found them in the woods, deduced they had been raised by wolves, and brought them home. His wife was less than pleased, but hired a star graduate from Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females, Penelope Lumley, age fifteen, to be their governess in the first book. Miss Lumley genuinely cares about the children and has brought them a long way, though they still have some howling inclinations and the tendency to drool at the sight of small birds.
The Hidden Gallery opens with workmen repairing the damage caused by the mayhem in Book 1. The noise and bother causes Lady Ashton to take the whole family to London while the work is being done. Penelope enjoys taking the children to see the sites, but they do have some mishaps, such as when the children mistake the furry hat of a stoic guard at Buckingham Palace for a bear.
The also have an odd encounter with a gypsy soothsayer with a mysterious prognostication and meet a new friend in young Mr. Simon Harley-Dickinson (he of the “perfectly nice young face, waves of brown hair, finely formed features, gleam of genius,” p. 154), and Penelope receives some strange warnings and instructions from her former teacher and mentor, Miss Mortimer.
Some mysteries just hinted at in the first book are expanded upon a bit here, such as the similarity in color between Penelope’s hair and the children’s, Lord Ashton’s somewhat wolfish behavior and absences during full moons, and the mural in the attic whose likeness appears in an art gallery, but we don’t seem to be close to finding answers for them nor the questions of what happened to the children’s parents nor Miss Lumley’s. I don’t know what the long term plans are for this series – I know Book 3 is out and Book 4 is due in December – but I’d rather have a short, really good series than have some of these questions dragged on for 8 or 10 books. But if the rest of the books are as fun as the first two, I don’t suppose people will complain too much, and it will be an enjoyable ride.
There are more pithy sayings from Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females’ founder, Agatha Swanburne, sprinkled throughout the book (such as “She who waits for the perfect moment to act will never make a turn at a busy intersection”) and apt descriptions (“If you have ever ridden on a tire swing after turning the rope ’round and ’round until it was twisted from top to bottom, you will have some idea of the wild, spinning, escalating whirl of Lady Contstance’s distress,” p. 5). Author Maryrose Wood also offers some amusing asides of instructions to her younger readers, such as the difference between high dudgeon and dungeon, or the meaning of some French phrases, and then refers back to these throughout the book.
Katherine Kellgren did another wonderful job narrating, and I enjoyed the book so much more by hearing her intonations. I did check the book out of the library as well to refer back to passages I heard in the audiobook.
The only real objectionable element was the soothsayer. She’s not a major character, but she appears three times in the book and speaks of a curse on the children. If I were reading this to children I’d feel the need to expound against soothsaying and fortune-telling.
With that caveat, I can recommend this as another fun, clever, witty, enjoyable book from Maryrose Wood.