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

Batty was watching a purple-and-orange bug when Jane screamed ... Batty recognized the scream as Jane's, and as Jane had a habit of screaming, more often than Skye, for example, Batty wasn't worried.

I found The Penderwicks while I was at the Tattered Cover Bookstore in Denver and got to spend a blissful hour and a half sans kids and responsibilities. I bought a number of sale books that I'd never heard of before, simply based on what caught my eye based on the cover and a quick flip-through. I thought this one would make a good book to read to Ridley and bought it (and its sequel).

The Penderwick sisters are Rosalind, Skye, Jane, and Batty, and they each have very different personalities. They actually reminded me a lot of the kids in Half Magic; and when one of the characters later refers to Magic by the Lake I wasn't too surprised. Rosalind is the oldest and most responsible; but at twelve, she's also starting to be interested in boys. Skye is a tomboy, and makes no attempts to hide her likes and dislikes. Jane is the romantic who writes her own Sabrina Starr adventures. And Batty, at age four, lives very much in her own world, with her ever-present butterfly wings and the Penderwicks' dog Hound at her side.

The girls and Mr. Penderwick spend their summer vacation at Arundel Cottage, owned by the imposing Mrs. Tifton. She is incredibly snooty and proud of her garden. Her son, Jeffrey, quickly becomes a good friend to the sisters after some amusing first impressions. The plot basically covers their three weeks at Arundel, with all sorts of drama, from getting chased by a bull to Mrs. Tifton's dreadful boyfriend Dexter.

While Ridley wasn't really old enough to appreciate all of the interaction (Rosalind's conflicting emotions about boys, for instance), she really did enjoy hearing the story and was immediately ready for the sequel as soon as we finished this one. For my part, I did feel that there was sometimes a little too much conflict (between siblings, between the girls and Jeffrey, between Jeffrey and his mother) the story did feel real and the characters well-developed. And as a father with two young girls, I appreciated having a book with strong girl characters, each with her own interests, gifts, and flaws.

The story was published in 2005 so it's not an old story. But with the setting at the summer cottage, outdoor adventures, and rarely any mention of videogames or television, it almost seems like something from ages ago. (Jane does type up her stories on her dad's computer, so you know it is a modern story, but I don't remember any cell phones.) It's a nice, almost timeless-feeling story that I think will hold up well next to the older stories that inspired the author.

Definitely a keeper—I'm looking forward to the next one as well.

Fed to jonathan's brain | February 08, 2010 | Comments (0)


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