Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall

If you loved E. Nesbit and Edward Eager as a kid, Jeanne Birdsall's The Penderwicks has the same feel. There's no magic, but the Penderwick girls are clever and quirky without being annoying, and the story is a satisfying (if episodic) summer tale.

When the Penderwick family (their widower father, Rosalind, Skye, Jane, and little Batty who's just four--plus Hound Penderwick, of course) go to stay in the country for three weeks, their summer vacation comes with a lot more adventure than they'd expected. They're renting a cottage from snooty Mrs. Tifton whose gardens are off-limits but so tempting; Mrs. Tifton's gardener, the dashing Cagney, owns two rabbits; and the neighbor boy, Jeffrey, is willing to go along with the girls' ideas--no matter how dangerous. But Jeffrey has a sorrowful future, and the Penderwicks are determined to help him.

The book is old-fashioned but thoroughly enjoyable. At first I wondered if kids today would be interested in a book like this--the cover doesn't seem geared to kids at all, but to their parents. Then I decided I didn't care. If I'm the real audience for this kind of book, I'm thrilled. I loved it. It's funny, the Penderwick girls squabble realistically without ever becoming irritating, and the ending is both satisfying and sweet.

B&N link

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