A Beautifully Written Modern Classic
The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy
by Jeanne Birdsall
Series: The Penderwicks (Book 1)
Original Publication Date: June 14, 2005
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
National Book Award for Young People, 2005
BookBrowse Sapphire Award for Most Popular Debut, 2005
Booklist, Publishers Weekly
This summer the Penderwick sisters have a wonderful surprise: a holiday on the grounds of a beautiful estate called Arundel. Soon they 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 best 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 Penderwicks will never forget.
Deliciously nostalgic and quaintly witty, this is a story as breezy and carefree as a summer day.
As “Throwback Thursday” is a popular trend at present, I decided that on this Thursday I’d post a review I wrote last year at Goodreads about a book that is itself a throwback in two ways: First, it was published nine years ago, in 2005; and second, in writing, tone, and story, it conjures up, and is worthy of standing alongside, the best in children’s literature from any era.
If there is justice in the literary world, in 2114 when 99% of the children’s books written in the past decade are long forgotten, The Penderwicks will still be in print. It is a classic in every sense of the word. Birdsall’s prose is simple but effective, and neither dialogue nor description ever assumes a burdensome role — each occupies the perfect amount of space per chapter ensuring that the plot glides effortlessly along.
The characters are wonderful, every last one of them vividly drawn. Skye was my favorite early on, but in no time, Rosalind, Jane, and Batty joined her at the top so that no matter which sister the author was focusing on at a given time, I was equally engaged. And let’s not forget Jeffrey, who’s so likeable right from the start (we are pleased that he takes no offense at a few insults) that it’s easy to see why the girls latch onto him and care fiercely about his fate. Cagney and Churchie (and Hound) are also appealing characters. Mr. Penderwick, with his Latin phrases and gentle demeanor, is a delight; Jeffrey’s mother and her beau, essentially the villains of the piece, are properly snooty and distasteful. (If the first is honey, the latter two are castor oil.)
The air of a carefree girlhood, where good is always the intention, but not always the result, of one’s actions; the sights and sounds of a summer of unexpected adventures; and the rocky days, the painful nights of self-reflection, and the guilt and worry that inevitably interrupt a child’s stream of pleasures, are depicted in The Penderwicks with loving skill by a talented writer.
— Jennifer Michelle
5 of 5 Hearts. A Beautifully Written Modern Classic.
The first in a series about the family Penderwick, The Penderwicks is that rare kids book for readers of all ages. In atmosphere, story, and style, it sits proudly among the best of children’s literature from bygone days. If this one has escaped your reading list or that of your child’s, wait no longer to put it at the top!