Eventually, and to their shock, many adults will at some point glare at a child and screech: WHAT, WERE YOU RAISED BY WOLVES?
Well yes, actually. They were.
While on a hunting trip on his lands, the very rich and important Lord Ashton finds three howling, scratching, small-animal-eating, down-on-all-fours children. Arooooo!
Being the head cheese, his lordship feels responsible for their care, locking them in the barn until a suitable governess can be found.
Enter Miss Penelope Lumley, a 15-year-old who has just graduated from her studies in early childhood education; she is, therefore, being turfed out of her comfy dormitory. She needs that job, but is nonetheless shocked to get it. The three little monsters dub her Miss Lumarooo! (English is hard.)
You’ll meet Miss Lumley and her three lupine charges in volume one of The Incorrigible Children Of Ashton Place: The Mysterious Howling (by Maryrose Wood, 2010, filed in Young Adult at the Lennoxville Library).
Miss Lumley must also cope with the mature Lord Ashton’s confused and very young new wife, various wacky servants, and the monthly full moon.
Will the children settle in? “As it turned out, she need not have worried about the children running away. If you have ever secretly begun to feed a stray litter of kittens by putting an open can of tuna on the back porch at night when no one was looking, you know quite well that the problem is not that the animals run off. It is that they refuse to leave you alone ever again.”
But wait, there’s more. Can the children learn their Latin verbs? Must they chase every squirrel they see? And can they settle into the clothes the seamstress has made for them for the grand ball?
The Mysterious Howling answers some of these questions, and is filled with jaunty fun. (The tale continues in volume two, The Hidden Gallery, 2011: Who sired the children? Who are Miss Lumley’s parents? And just what is Lord Ashton hiding….?)
Miss Lumley seeks to make a perfect little lady and two little gentlemen out of animals.
That is a difficult task. And it is almost more interesting to consider the re-education from the children’s viewpoint.
Author Karen Russell offers that viewpoint in Foyer Sainte-Lucie Pour Jeunes Filles Elevées Par Les Loups – featured in a book of 10 short stories in a tome that takes its name from this most affecting tale. Russell is an accomplished writer of literature, winner of a MacArthur Foundation genius grant, and a Pultizer nominee.
These stories all feature some fantastical moment or idea. Two children are obsessed with finding the body of their drowned sibling in “Obsédante Olivia”; the kids were left behind as their parents traveled through dangerous lands (“Content que vous ne soyez pas là! Bisous.”)
In the title story (2014, translated from “the American” by Valerie Malfoy, and filed in French Adult Fiction), werewolf parents make the ultimate sacrifice, sending their children away to the nuns in order to give them a better life. The children will suffer, but so will their parents. Russell is a keen observer of what it means for children to grow up, and for parents to give up. This is a great read (and your scribe needed a dictionary for a handful of the vocabulary).
Here’s a book that sounds like a joke, but will leave teens (and adults) astonished. The Music Of Dolphins (by Karen Hesse, 1996, filed in C-232) begins with the discovery of a shipwrecked child brought up by… by dolphins.
Scientists and social workers attempt to teach the child human language and culture. Surprisingly, this is a fabulous read filled with drama, sadness, science and philosophy. The scientists name her Mila.
The child must destroy herself, in order to build herself.
“Making progress is when I talk words,” she says. And, later, as she moves from baby talk to a higher language level: “I have decided to work very hard at being human so they will let me go free.”
Even later in her schooling: “I am a thing to look at, to play with. Not a thing to touch and care for.”
That’s enough seriousness. Time for something both a little less, and a little more, fantastical.
Anyone with a pet will know how much they give us.
The idea of a pet moth, though – what can such a tiny wonky little creature teach us?
Margaret And The Moth Tree tells of sad little Meg, orphaned at age two and shunted about until she’s six. Then she is deposited, permanently, at an orphanage. It is a terrible, horrible, very bad, not good orphanage run by the nasty Miss Switch, who rewards bullies and sneers at nice, regular kids like Marg.
Here’s the thing: Margaret has a special talent. She can hear… moths. They collect up outside her window, in their tree home, and whisper to themselves.
Perhaps, working together, they can put an end to Miss Switch’s reign of evil? This may well be the only case of a child raised by wild moths.
Ah, how about frogs? On another planet, there exists a war-like and power-hungry culture of froggies. They are also a bit accident prone.
Sargent Frog and his amphibious pals are bent on conquering Earth but have gummed it all up. Sgt. Frog (by Mine Yoshizaki, filed in C-400A) collects up the first three volumes of this Japanese manga (or graphic novel, translated into English and read right to left… you’ll get used to it quickly). The lost soldier is adopted by two siblings, 12 and 13, who argue over what to do with the alien critter.
In the meantime, Sgt. Frog must find his lost squadron and bring humanity to its knees. This is a fun bit of silliness for younger readers. The amphibians and the humans learn from each other. In the absence of parents (busy lugging home the bacon), they’re bringing each other up.
But please, no croaking, keening, or howling. Enunciate. She sells sea shells by the sea shore.
— Eleanor Brown, March 11, 2016