Thursday’s Book Review: London Town
In the second installment of the Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series, The Hidden Gallery, Alexander, Beowulf, and Cassiopeia join Miss Penelope Lumley, their stalwart governess, on a trip to London. The Incorrigible Children are as endearing as ever, with their quirky but charming wolf-like qualities. They mistakenly attack the guards outside Buckingham Palace, thinking the guards are bears in their tall furry hats. But they also master the intricacies of the Peloponnesian War in their history lessons, and rescue an elephant in distress at the zoo.
Penelope attempts to guide the children through the city of London, where cultural and historical lessons abound, but finds that her Hixby’s Guide, the travel book given to her by her old school teacher at Swanburne Academy, is less than useful. It is full of pictures of alpine meadows instead of images of London, and alludes to a secret portrait gallery in the British Museum, holding works of art that seem obscure, at best.
During their travels through London, Penelope and the children encounter a mysterious gypsy woman, a courageous playwright, and bloodthirsty pirates. They meet with hilarity and escape danger. And along the way, Penelope collects intriguing clues about her own past, the enigma behind her employer, Lord Ashton, and her connection to both the esteemed Agatha Swanburne, founder of her alma mater, and, possibly, to the Incorrigibles themselves.
My children and I are anxiously awaiting the third, and hopefully final, installment of the Incorrigibles saga. It looks like it comes out in February of 2012, and we can’t wait to read it and find the answers to all of our questions about Penelope and her wards. The first two books have given us a lot to think about, and have unfolded a mystery we are anxious to unravel. The Hidden Gallery left us with even more questions than The Mysterious Howling, but it showed us who we can trust in the drama that will ensue – Old Timothy, Simon Harley-Dickinson, Miss Charlotte Mortimer, and who to be suspicious of. And of course, the writing is so engaging, with its tongue-in-cheek humor and delightful characterizations, that reading Wood’s work is always a pleasure.
In the midst of reading about the London adventures of Penelope and her Incorrigibles, my husband took a business trip to London. My children were so enchanted by the places Wood describes in her book, and by the book’s mysteries, that they begged him to visit the British Museum and find the Hixby’s hidden gallery. Unfortunately, he was in business meetings all day and wasn’t able to make it to the museum before closing hours. Instead he took walks around the city, and when he got home he told them what he had seen, using this book as his guide:
A Walk in London, by Salvatore Rubbino, is an absolutely charming picture book about a mother and her young daughter taking a day trip to explore the city of London. They arrive in Westminster on a bright red double decker bus to the sound of Big Ben chiming out the hour. From there they walk through St. James’s Park and arrive at Buckingham Palace just in time for the changing of the guard. The illustrations are full of movement and personality, with just the right amount of detail to capture the sights and feeling of the city. A fold out page gives a wonderful panoramic view of the Thames, which allowed my husband to show the kids just where he had been during his short time in London. It was such a delightful book, and can be enjoyed on many levels with its engaging story for younger readers, and subtexts full of interesting facts spread out all over the page for older readers. I’d love to find a copy of Rubbino’s A Walk in New York, and hope he continues to explore other cities with his cheerful art and storytelling.