|What You Need to Know:
• Winner of the National Book Award, The Penderwicks is Jeanne Birdsall’s first book.
• A story of sisterhood and friendship, this book will appeal to a wide age range.
• There are many references to the girls’ mother who had died of cancer four years earlier.
• The story and the characters are wholesome and reminiscent of another era.
• This book is the first in the series. The third is expected out in 2011 and the author plans to write five in all.
• Check out Jeanne Birdsall’s website.
|Sweet Series Background:
The Penderwicks is a timeless tale about family, sisterhood and growing up. The books revolve around four sisters with very distinct personalities and their intellectual, although slightly oblivious father. Their mother passed away years earlier, falling ill to cancer right after the birth of her fourth daughter. The oldest, Rosalind is dependable and on the verge of adolescence, while Skye is sporty and good at math, Jane is a writer and romantic, and Batty is the baby sister who never knew their mother. The girls, whether at home or on vacation, deal with typical challenges of growing up like sibling rivalry, friendship, first crushes, and unappealing class work. As they learn to make thoughtful decisions and use good judgment, they are always bound by honor and their love of one another. These memorable characters will stay alive in readers' minds long after they've read this series.
|Sweet Book Summary:
Charming is a perfect word to describe this book, from the setting to the characters to the conflicts that they face. It begins with the Penderwick family on their way to three weeks in a Berkshire summer cottage. The family includes the dad, a somewhat “absent-minded professor” of botany, his four very different daughters and their rambunctious dog, Hound. The oldest, 12 year-old Rosalind, is the responsible one, taking care of the others in the absence of their mother. Then there is Skye, the fiery blond who is also the smartest, Jane, the romantic writer, and Batty the four year-old tag-along. They arrive at Arundel to find that their summer cottage is on the property of an actual mansion and to make things even more fun there is a young boy their age, Jeffrey, living there. They befriend him and enjoy three weeks of fun and games, playing soccer, exploring the beautiful gardens and discovering forgotten treasures in the mansion’s attic. They make a few other friends along the way, including the kind housekeeper, Churchie and the handsome young gardener, Cagney. Rosalind has a serious crush on Cagney and Batty falls in love with his pet bunnies, Yaz and Carla. While they always have good intentions, the girls do seem to encounter their share of trouble. They lose track of Batty, lose Cagney’s bunny, spar with Jeffrey’s stuck up, controlling mother, and even encounter an angry bull. The story lasts until the rental agreement runs out and when the Penderwicks leave for home, we say good bye to our new friends. It is a summer vacation these girls will not soon forget, and neither will the reader.
As a parent, I loved this book. It reminded me of books from another era. A time, before everything had to have an edge – or a half dead creature like a vampire or zombie - and before cell phones made our kids accessible 24/7. It is engaging, the characters are generally good-natured and there is an element of innocence to everything they do. They’re not perfect, but the mistakes they make are generally age appropriate and benign. The sisters try to watch out for each other, take great pride in their family and have aspirations to do great things. They’re generally polite and are kind and caring to others. I picture them with wide eyes, constantly amazed by the world around them. There are some lessons learned and there are examples of good and bad behavior. In many ways, they are excellent role models for young readers. While I loved this book in so many ways, there were a few disappointments. As a reader, I thought that it moved a little slowly at times. I also felt that the father could have played a stronger role and that the ages of the characters didn’t always make sense. Rosalind acted older than she was and there seemed like there should have been more of an age difference between the three older girls. Finally, their tendency to momentarily forget themselves and as a result encounter some sort of trouble, became a little predictable after awhile. These minor issues definitely do not outweigh the magic of this tender story and the solace that readers will find when they enter The Penderwicks world, leaving behind the burdens of modern-day life.
|Author: Jeanne Birdsall Illustrator: n/a Published: 2007, 272 pages
Themes: Award Winners, Books & Reading, Family Life, Friendship, Growing Up, Illness/Death, Self-Awareness/Discovery, Siblings
|Sweet Discussion Questions:
• In what year do you think that this book is supposed to take place?
• Which of the four sisters do you like the best? Which one is most like you?
• What do you think will happen to Jeffrey? Will the girls stay in touch with him?
• How would the book have been different if their mother had been alive?
• Is Mr. Penderwick a good father?
• Does Mrs. Tifton have any redeeming qualities?
• Would you like to explore Arundel? The gardens or the mansion?
• Is the story realistic?
• Did you think that the story is predictable? If so, which parts?
|This recommendation was written by: Melissa G.
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