The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy, by Jeanne Birdsall, was published in 2005 by Alfred A Knopf.
Meet the Penderwicks, four different sisters with one special bond. There’s responsible, practical Rosalind; stubborn, feisty Skye; dreamy, artistic Jane; and shy little sister Batty, who won’t go anywhere without her butterfly wings. When the girls and their doting father head off for their summer holiday, they are in for a surprise. Instead of the cozy tumbledown cottage they expected, they find themselves in a beautiful estate called Arundel. Soon the girls are busy discovering the summertime magic of Arundel’s sprawling gardens, treasure-filled attic, tame rabbits, and the cook who makes the best gingerbread in Massachusetts. But the most wonderful discovery of all is Jeffrey Tifton, son of Arundel’s owner, who quickly proves to be the perfect companion for their adventures. The icy-hearted Mrs. Tifton is not as pleased with the Penderwicks as Jeffrey is, though, and warns the new friends to stay out of trouble.Which, of course, they will-won’t they? One thing’s for sure: it will be a summer the Penderick’s will never forget.
The Penderwicks reminded me of Elizabeth Enright and Gone-Away Lake and The Saturdays, which is another way of saying that I absolutely loved it. I’ve mentioned before how I love books that have children exploring and playing outside and this book is full of that. The only mention of technology is a computer that Jane uses to type up her story and print it out. The Penderwicks is a charming, fun novel that manages to cram in life lessons for all five children into a relatively short book.
It’s almost perfect, but not quite. I thought some things were a bit too obvious and unoriginal (and slightly contrived, such as Jeffrey’s description of the military academy), although certainly they happen all the time in real life. I did guess some of the plot just from what was happening, and was slightly disappointed when exactly what I guessed happened, but The Penderwicks is a lovely book all the same—especially for children.
The Penderwicks doesn’t quite reach the belovedness of Elizabeth Enright for me, but it’s very close—which basically means that it’s a fantastic children’s story in its own right. I wasn’t quite sure about the realisticness of a few things, and some things felt a little contrived to me, but overall, it’s a beautiful story about, well, four sisters, two rabbits, and a very interesting boy.
Recommended Age Range: 10+
Genre: Realistic, Children’s
“JEFFREY!” It was Mrs. Tifton’s voice again, and she sounded very close now.
Skye put her hand over the boy’s mouth and whispered, “Shh, trouble. That’s snooty Mrs. Tifton and she’s a real pain. If she caught us in her gardens, she’d—”
The boy jerked away from her hand and struggled to sit up. He was even more pale than before, so pale she could count every freckle on his face.
“Are you all right? You look like you’re going to be sick,” she said.
“JEFFREY! Where are you?” came Mrs. Tifton’s voice again.
Then Skye finally understood. “Oh, no.”
“Excuse me,” said the boy with great dignity. “My mother’s calling me and you’re in my way.”