A Charming Family Story – Review of The Penderwicks

penderwicks Book InformationThe Penderwicks

Author – Jeanne Birdsall

Publication Information – Dell Yearling (2005, $7.99 paperback, $7.99 digital)

Reading Challenge Book? Yes. This is a children’s book.

Growing up, I loved family stories. The various sibling groups in Noel Streatfeild’s Shoe books, the All-of-a-Kind-Family stories, Little House books, you name it.  I think I always wished I had more siblings, and so I enjoyed living vicariously through the adventures of families in fiction.

The Penderwicks is a wonderful addition to these sorts of books. In something of a nod to Little Women, Birdsall writes of four sisters – Rosalind, Jane, Skye and Elizabeth (Batty). We learn in the book that their mother died of cancer soon after four-year-old Batty’s birth and as the story opens, their professor father has taken them to stay for the summer in a cottage on the grounds of a New England estate called Arundel.When the girls arrive, their attention is captured first by the staff, including the young and handsome groundskeeper. Later they learn that Arundel’s owner has a son named Jeffrey. Close in age to the girls and quite lonely as the only child in an isolated house, Jeffrey soon finds himself swept into the life of the Penderwicks.

And what a life it is! The girls are full of energy and imagination. They are fiercely loyal to one another even if Rosalind has her mind on grown-up life while little Batty loves animals and can’t bear to go anywhere without wearing her wings.  Throw in a love of sports and dreamy Jane’s longing to be a writer, and the Penderwicks are a fun group indeed.

I liked that while the sisters were very fun, they aren’t perfect. And when they do make mistakes or do things they shouldn’t, they generally face up to the consequences, learning and growing as a result. I also loved seeing their friendship with Jeffrey develop. Though wealthy, he has a somewhat lonely life and he and the sisters seem to be good for each other.

Of course, Jeffrey’s mother is more than a touch snobbish and disapproves of the Penderwick girls. However, even though she does and says some dreadful things, I liked that the author resists the temptation to make her all bad. Instead, we see that with all her flaws, this lady genuinely does love her son and wants what she thinks is best for him – even if she does have a lot to learn about Jeffrey.

If you’re looking for a charming family story, The Penderwicks is a delight. I’m saving this one for my own family when they get old enough. Rating: 5 stars

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