The author draws on classic literature, like Jane Eyre, while infusing her work with a contemporary tone, not unlike that found in the Lemony Snicket series. The story is amusing and I can see why my granddaughter loves them. I found myself finding ways to use the novels as a foundation for more. Penelope reads poetry to the children, specifically The Wreck of the Hesperus. Those familiar with Anne of Green Gables may recall this poem being one that is recited in one of the episodes. And, of course, the children’s names are also an invitation to learn more about legendary and historical people. There is also a mention of finger knitting, which is apparently so simple even a child could do it. (I wish we had some yarn in the house so I could try it and then possibly teach Bibi how to do it for herself.)
I always appreciate a children’s book that invites learning beyond what is on the page. With that said, I kept waiting for the titular “mysterious howl” to enter the story. I have no idea why the author takes so long to introduce it. And then the mystery isn’t even resolved. In fact, very little is resolved. I have my suspicions about the lord of the manor who disappears occasionally (and why he does so) but if you think you’ll find out who abandoned these three children and why you won’t have that answer in the pages of this book. Nor will you know for certain what the mysterious howl is because you won’t even “hear” it until nearly the end of the novel. (I have my guesses about the cause of that as well.)
From what I understand, the cliffhanger ending becomes more pronounced as the books go along, not resolving much of the narrative. I may postpone reading the rest of the books until they have all been published. Since my son and his wife are reading these books to my granddaughter, I may wait until they tell me the series is finished. In the meantime, this is a cute and quirky book and, for those who loved the Lemony Snicket books and who don’t mind reading a novel that reads more like a part of a longer story then this book will probably delight.