Monday, February 18, 2013

Book Nook - The Penderwicks

The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall:

The Bachsters and I just recently finished this book, and the girls loved it.  As I read it, they would squirm around, relating to a character, or declare that they were just like a certain character, and every night they begged to read just one more chapter.  For those reasons alone, it's very Book-Nook-worthy!

The Penderwicks are four young sisters (all aged 4-12, I believe) who have rented a quaint cottage (part of a grand estate) for three weeks during the summer with their absent-minded professor father, Mr. Penderwick.  Roaslind is the responsible, oldest sister; Skye is the tomboy sister who always puts her foot in her mouth; Jane loves both soccer and writing her Sabrina Starr novels; Batty is the youngest, always getting into something, assisted by the family dog, Hound.

Each chapter is a mini-adventure where one or more of the sisters usually gets into some sticky situation.  Batty is almost charged by a raging bull; Jane and Skye ruin the garden party judging; Rosalind embarrasses herself by falling into the pond right in front of her very first crush, the estate's gardener, Cagney.  Through many of their adventures, the girls are joined by Jeffrey, a young boy who lives in the estate's mansion with his high-heel-loving mother, Mrs. Tifton.  Jeffrey is doomed to attend military school, even though he's tried to tell his mother that he really wants to study music.  The girls set out to help Jeffrey, despite their own adventures occasionally messing up their plans.

As I mentioned, the girls loved the book (Little Dude listened to it as well, but he's still a bit too young to appreciate it I think).  I read in one review that it has a bit of an old-fashioned feeling to it, and that is true for the most part.  The pace moves along nicely, but it's not as action-packed as some children's novels.  I loved the dialogue between the sisters, and found their bickering very believable.  The interactions between the characters is probably the book's greatest strength: what these characters do and say (or forget to do & forget to say) makes them seem very real, which is perhaps why my girls could relate to them so well. 

There are, of course, some downsides, tiny plot contrivances (for example, if Mrs. Tifton is so wealthy, why in the world would she rent out the little cottage on the property?) & some of the dialogue (jokes of drowning someone came up a couple of times...enough to make me feel a little uncomfortable).  But on the whole, I would definitely recommend the book.....and I know the Bachsters would, too.



  1. I enjoyed the Penderwicks and the 2? sequels. My girls (7 & 9) sadly did not like them much, as read-alouds nor as independent reading. My girls read TONS but just not interested at this point in this type of tale (5 Little Peppers, Louisa May Alcott, Melendy family). Too bad!

  2. That is too bad - I wonder if they might enjoy them if you try introducing them again sometime? Maybe some books are like vegetables - you have to keep trying something until they start to like it! It sounds like your girls have found plenty of other books that they DO enjoy, and that's a very good thing.

  3. Will try that, good idea. Right now we are reading two authors new to us: E.D. Baker and Diana Wynne Jones. Diana Wynne Jones' "Earwig and the Witch" was funny, and not as long as the Penderwicks.

  4. Have you read Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones? It's so great, I read it twice. I'll definitely check out the Earwig & the Witch (and E.D. Baker, too)! Thanks for the recommendations!