Monday, April 20, 2009

Review: The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall

genre: children's literature
rating: 4/5

The subtitle of this book is: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy. Those four sisters, ranging in age from 12 to 4, get in all sorts of troublesome and wonderful situations while staying for the summer in the cottage of a Massachusetts mansion. Their gloriously literary and low-key father loosely rules the roost and generally lets the girls do whatever it is they please as long as no one gets maimed or drowned.

It's not a plot intensive book, my nearly 9 year old and 6 year old (a girl and boy, respectively), both enjoyed this tale for its mild adventures and the silly antics of the sisters. The dog, especially, made my kids laugh. The neighbor boy's mom makes a fabulous villain while the Interesting Boy himself is a darling and I wish he was in my neighborhood to play with my own children. The writing is cheery but thoughtful and sometimes the girls have, rightly, some pretty strong feelings that I think are well played out.

While my 6 year old son really liked it, I think if he'd been much older he might've gotten a bit bored during some of the parts about the 12 year old girl. Her storyline was a bit mature for him (she develops a crush on a boy) but my 9 year old really liked that part :) I tried to skim over it as I read out loud but near the end I couldn't, it was too much a part of the story.

I think what I, as an adult, liked most about reading this book was the relationship between the members of the Penderwick family. They have their own acronyms for things, they watch out for each other (or at least intend to) and I liked the way they stuck together when the outside world seemed to be against them. Despite their issues (which every family has, of course), I think it's a really pleasant example of a stable family and of normal sibling relationships. I also liked how they spend their time running around outside, shooting arrows and playing soccer and exploring instead of just sitting and playing the computer or watching tv.

If only our summer could be as full of friends and adventure - we had a great time reading this one.


bermudaonion said...

Reading with children is such a pleasure - enjoy it while you can.

Melissa said...

We LOVE this one (for obvious reasons, having four girls around here), for much of the same reasons you pointed out. It's a charming read, and I love that the family (even with the absent mom) is stable and loving. And Batty just cracks me up.

Now, you need to read the next one. And you need to read the Casson family books.

Circe said...

You're posting/reviewing so many of my favorites, and this is one! (Come to think of it, no reason not to add it to my profile...) I read it to my Daughter out loud and we were both really into it. Such a great bonding experience, too. Tonight, we will finish The Penderwicks of Gardam Street... Sad when they are over!

Anonymous said...


Anna said...

Sounds like a book my daughter might enjoy. Thanks for the review.

Diary of an Eccentric

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