Book Review: The Penderwicks series by Jeanne Birdsall

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Here we have another book review, readers!  This review, however, focuses on a series which can loosely be referred to as The Penderwicks, from the title of the first novel.  If you know any young girls (or girls who are young at heart), start taking notes!

Mr. Penderwick is a professor of botany.  His wife died roughly four years ago, but she did not leave him alone.  Together, Mr. and Mrs. Penderwick had four daughters.  The last and youngest, Batty, was born just before her mother died of cancer.

The first Penderwicks novel – The Penderwicks – mentions that the family’s old vacation house was sold at the last minute.  This meant they could not rent it, as they had in years past. And so it appeared that the family would be stuck in Cameron, Massachusetts, for summer vacation.  Cameron is great, but summer vacation usually includes at least a little trip outside of town for a few days.  Right?

Luckily, Mr. Penderwick finds a replacement cottage where the family can spend their summer in the nick of time.  Off the family drives, going out on the adventure of a lifetime…!

Until they become hopelessly lost, that is.

Who are the Penderwicks, you ask?  The first and oldest daughter is Rosalind.  Twelve years old (in this novel), Rosalind has been mothering her sisters since their real mother died.  She keeps them all running on schedule and makes sure they do not roughhouse too much.  (Or she tries to do that.)

Next is eleven year old Skye.  Blue eyed and blonde, Skye is the only Penderwick who directly resembles the deceased Mrs. Penderwick.  All the other Penderwick girls have brown hair and brown eyes.  Skye is a tomboy; she loves science and mathematics, and keeps everything neat and orderly.  However, despite all this, she has the most ferocious temper of the sisters.  Any little thing can set her off, and a mountain of little things is a recipe for a lot of trouble from Skye.  Cross her at your own peril!

Then there is Jane.  Dreamy and disorganized, Jane’s half of the room she shares with Skye is painted purple and looks like a dozen girls live in that part of the two sisters’ domain.  Ten years old, Jane and Skye tend to get into a lot of arguments.  Skye cannot stand Jane’s tendency to romanticize the mundane every waking minute.  With the dream of becoming an author someday, Jane has very little filter between her brain and her mouth – yet another reason she is almost always at odds with Skye.

Finally, there is Batty.  The youngest of the sisters, Batty was born four years ago.  Shy and quiet around strangers, Batty can hold her own when it comes to sisterly battles of temper.  Otherwise, she is the sweetest and most innocent of the Penderwicks.  During the first book, she never goes anywhere without wearing a special set of butterfly wings.  A lover of animals, Batty seems to be considering a career as a vet – though she is awfully young to settle on an idea as yet.

Ooops, I almost forgot a member of the Penderwick family!  That would be Hound, the family’s big, black, goofy dog.  All the sisters love him to pieces and coddle him unmercifully.  Hound knows nothing but that love, and so he is a very friendly dog.  Just make sure you do not feed him road maps.  Or pizza.  Or pie.  Or meat loaf.  He has a tendency to regurgitate that sort of stuff, and at the worst times!  He is also Batty’s constant companion.

Following The Penderwicks are three sequels:  The Penderwicks on Gardam Street, The Penderwicks at Point Mouette, and The Penderwicks in Spring.  They are all wonderful books; something like Little Women and every novelization of the adventures/relationships any set of siblings has ever experienced.

There is no way to recommend this series any more highly than this, readers.  It is likely that your local library has copies of the books, but if they do not, you should request them.  And if they do not buy them, then I promise you that this series is worth your money.  It is practically impossible to go wrong with Jeanne Birdsall’s Penderwicks series!

Vale!

The Mithril Guardian

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