Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Penderwicks at Point Mouette

There are some authors you can just always count on.  You know that they will not disappoint or let you down.  Even if they have in some way changed their style or grown, like an old friend, you know they are going to still fit you.  For me Jeanne Birdsall is one such author.  I have read many books I haven't enjoyed all that much in the past few weeks so when her latest novel, The Penderwicks at Point Mouette, arrived at my door yesterday I was positively gleeful.  Because I knew that I was holding in my hands a book that I could wrap myself in and find comfort, a book I would love. 
"The Penderwick Family was being torn apart."
With that dramatic line the next segment in the story of the Penderwick sisters and Jeffrey begins.  The girls' father and stepmother are off to England for their honeymoon.  Rosalind is going to New Jersey with her best friend for two weeks.  Skye, Jane, and Batty are off to the beach in Maine with their Aunt Claire where they will be met by Jeffrey.  This makes Skye the OAP (Oldest Available Penderwick).  She is not at all happy about this and her sisters are a bit wary themselves.  But the adults know what they are doing.  They know that Rosalind needs a break, time to be just a 13  year old girl with no responsibility.  They know that Skye needs the responsibility and the opportunity to prove to herself she can handle it.  They know Batty needs to learn to function and be a person of her own without Rosalind to guide her.

And so a new summer of adventure begins.  A summer that includes marshmallow roasts on the beach, soccer on the beach, music on the beach, searches for golf balls, Moose watches at dawn, and a naughty troublesome dog that introduces them to a new friend.  Skye survives her stint as the OAP, barring one brief coup that gives the title to Jeffrey, with grace and new knowledge.  Batty discovers she can defeat monsters without Rosalind ,and that she has a talent that no one expected that makes her unique from all her sisters.  Jane learns a lesson about boys and romance that every girl needs to learn at some point.  Jeffrey comes away from the summer with more new knowledge than he ever expected.  

This third installment comes with everything I loved about the first two books.  Birdsall knows how to write children well.  She writes families and relationships well too.  She can capture the magic in the world that is always there when you are young beautifully.  The book, like the other two, is timeless in how any person of any generation could read it and identify.  Anyone who has read the first two books will be in a familiar  place within the  pages of this one despite the change in setting.  It is not just more of the same though.  The girls and Jeffrey are growing and changing.  I love this.  Birdsall is not allowing them to stagnate.  She is moving them forward and giving them experiences that will change them forever.  Just as Rosalind was not the same person at the end of the second book, Skye and Batty are not the same at the end of this one.  I liked watching Skye be a little unsure of herself and a little lost in her new role.  It forced her to be less selfish and see all her sisters differently.  Batty found her voice and place in this book in a way I was really not expecting. She has always been the cute little one, but now is becoming a defined character of her own.

Rosalind is present in the story only in the first and last chapter.  I thought I would miss her presence in the book more than I did.  As an oldest sister myself, she has always been the Penderwick I understood the most.  With her not there I really enjoyed the other three more than I had before.  I am interested in going back and seeing if it changes my reading of the first two books any.

If you enjoyed The Penderwiicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy and The Penderwicks on Gardam Street, you will feel like you have been reunited with old friends.  If you haven't read those books you should get on that.  Right now.

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