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The Penderwicks    by Jeanne Birdsall order for
by Jeanne Birdsall
Order:  USA  Can
Yearling, 2007 (2005)
Hardcover, Softcover, CD, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters Two Rabbits and a Very Interesting Boy is the first in a series by Jeanne Birdsall. Readers can enjoy more of the precocious, mischievous, delightful sisters in the The Penderwicks on Gardam Street.

Professor Martin Penderwick is very involved with his love of botany, but always has time for his daughters. Mother is in heaven tending gardens, while twelve-year old practical Rosalind is the mother figure on earth; eleven-year old Skye is hot-tempered and fierce in her convictions; Jane is the ten-year old budding mystery author; and shy, loving, four-year-old Batty (who wears orange-and-black butterfly wings) is the youngest. The astute family dog, Hound, serves as a protector, especially of Batty. (Sometimes he likes to tear up a map, which is why Mr. Penderwick often gets lost.)

It is summer vacation when the family learns their usual rental cottage on Cape Cod has been sold. Mr. Penderwick finds as an alternative Arundel Hall in the Berkshire Mountains. When they arrive (after getting lost due to lack of map and you know who is accountable for that) they find an estate, with looong-lanes of driveway, bordering poplar trees and plentiful flora. The grounds also include lush lawns, paths, marble statues, and many hedge tunnels to explore. Young Cagney (the gardener) directs the family to the guest cottage (Rosalind notices how cute he is).

Mistress of the manor is huffy Mrs. Trifton, whose main purpose in life is the garden club. The instantly-lovable housekeeper is Mrs. Churchill. The Penderwicks also meet young Jeffrey Trifton, an accomplished pianist, though his Mom aspires for him to attend military academy, following in her father's footsteps. Rosaline tells Batty a story each night at bedtime. Batty overcomes her shyness with Cagney when she learns he has two rabbits - he extends an invite for her to meet the pets. And the sisters hold nightly meetings at eight o'clock of MOOPS (Meeting of Older Penderwick Sisters) to share secrets.

Jeanne Birdsall has created a rousing, delightful family story, reflecting real sibling behavior. Her writing style is cozily warm, drawing readers close to the cast of The Penderwicks, their adventures, and the humor of their antics. She projects friendship, and family love, and assigns gleeful roles to each character, with lessons in apologizing and not judging before you know the person. Birdsall writes in her bio: 'By the time I was ten or eleven, I'd run out of books to read ... I promised myself that I'd become a writer someday, to give readers like me a few more books to discover and enjoy.' Enjoy discovering The Penderwicks!

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