Thursday, August 11, 2011

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

Featuring Bit (Bibliophile In Training), age 7

I first read The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall when Bit was just learning to toddle around. I was instantly in love and looked forward to the day that I could introduce her to this wonderful story. In the mean time I devoured and loved the two Penderwick novels that followed. I have been waiting a long time to read this story with Bit but she was reluctant, convinced it was going to be boring due to its lack of dragons and magic. I told her to give it at least three chapters and then if she didn't want to finish it we didn't have to. Instead of wanting me to stop she only wanted to keep reading and reading.
The Story
Rosalind, Skye, Jane, and Batty Penderwick are off to spend three weeks of their summer vacation at a place called Arundel cottage with their widowed father. They are looking forward to peace, soccer drills, flower picking, and outdoor adventures. They are unprepared when they discover the cottage is a part of a large estate complete with beautiful gardens, a large mansion, and a snobby owner named Mrs. Tifton. Arundel also comes with a good looking gardener, bunnies, and Mrs. Tifton's son, Jeffrey. The girls befriend Jeffrey and Mrs. Tifton is less than pleased with the children's antics . They must work hard to keep out of trouble but that is almost impossible in a place with an irritable bull, a dress up party, a snooty garden club competition, and an incident involving a runaway rabbit. Can the girls maintain the Penderwick family honor and rescue Jeffrey from his dreaded fate at military school?

 Bit's ThoughtsI like The Penderwicks because it is full of the adventures of the four Penderwick sisters and a boy named Jeffrey. I like Batty because she reminds me of my little brother except my brother doesn't wear butterfly wings.  Jane is my favorite sister because she writes books just like I do and reads the same books as me. My favorite part of the book is when Jeffrey rescues Batty. I'm going to read the other two after Mommy reads me Ella Enchanted.

My ThoughtsThe Penderwicks is a wonderful tale of childhood, summer, friendship, and family. The writing has a timeless feel to it, yet has its own distinct voice and atmosphere that is very accessible for 21st century children. As far as contemporary fiction for intermediate readers goes, it doesn't get any better than this. Birdsall succeeds so well because she understands children. From four year old little Batty to 12 year old Rosalind the kids are defined characters with distinct personalities who suffer different hardships based on their age and who they are. They are also a very tight family unit and it is unsurprising that Jeffrey was attracted to the friendship they offered him. One part of this book I really appreciate is the girls' father. In a sea of books sadly lacking in strong fathers, this is a breath of fresh air. Martin Penderwick deserves a place in the hall of fame for literary fathers right next to Arthur Weasley, Matthew Cuthbert (he counts), and Charles Ingalls. He is an absentminded botany professor but he loves his girls more than anything and they know it. He uses wisdom and a dry wit in dealing with them that is amusing and heartwarming at the same time. This is the sort of book that just makes you happy when you read it and wanting more. And fortunately for us there are more, The Penderwicks on Gardam Street and The Penderwicks at Point Mouette. And there are still two more planned.

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