The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall
Finished on 3/3/09
National Book Award Winner
Rating: 3/5 (Above Average)
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.
I generally spend an hour or so every day working in the children's section at the book store. Often times, I'll have parents or grandparents ask for recommendations for their young readers (typically grades 3-6). I've read a few teen books over the past few years (The Book Thief, Twilight, Stargirl, etc.), but other than my childhood favorites (Anne of Green Gables, The Secret Garden, My Side of the Mountain, All-of-a-kind Family, and the Little House series), I'm not terribly up-to-date on the current books for this particular age group. So, when a co-worker suggested The Penderwicks, I decided to give it a try.
Had I not known it was published in 2005, I would have assumed The Penderwicks was written in the mid-fifties. The narrative has such a nostalgic feel. Not once did I notice mention of any modern technology! Computers, cell phones, iPods and digital cameras are nonexistent. I'm pretty sure there wasn't even any reference to television! The children played together outside, kicking a soccer ball, fleeing an angry bull, sneaking in and out of second-story bedrooms, and frolicking about the large gardens on the estate. One could say the story is brimming with sugar-coated innocence. I like to think of it as wholesome, albeit not realistic in this day and age.
The Penderwicks isn't a suspenseful read, nor is it a fantasty-filled page-turner like the Harry Potter series. It's quite simplistic, with a mild (perhaps even boring), predictable storyline. The characters are a bit flat and forgettable (certainly not the case with Anne, Marilla and Matthew or Laura, Mary and Nellie!) However, I enjoyed the book well enough that I'd eventually like to read the sequel (The Penderwicks on Gardam Street). And, I feel quite comfortable recommending it to customers seeking an old-fashioned novel for a young child. (I suppose those closer to ten and eleven might be too sophisticated and worldly to get much enjoyment from such a simple story.)
Now to fit in a re-read of Anne of Green Gables!