The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy
Jeanne Birdsall, author
2007
National Book Award winner

Don’t wait to read this gem! Check it out from the library today. It’s exactly what the title describes and summer is the perfect time to enjoy it! Or, maybe in the dead of winter when you need a good read to remind you what summer is all about. Or, perhaps when you are bored with all the “deep” and “quality” fiction you are supposed to be reading for school. Or, when you’re in bed sick and just need a jolly good read. Or, what about when your children are in need of the next great read aloud. ….

You get the picture? This is a charming, old-fashioned story with none of the “issues” that keep cropping up in recent children’s chapter books. No one is seeking reconciliation with a long estranged parent who abandoned them at childhood.* No one is depressed.* No one is caught up in a historical event of any significance. Instead, the four Penderwick sisters and their widowed father are renting a cottage behind a formidable estate for three weeks for their summer vacation. Location? Somewhere in New England. Time period? Modern day–the only reason you know that, however, is because there is the briefest mention of the father’s computer when they’re packing for their trip. The rest of the book is completely timeless with no descriptions of technology that will in any way date the book for years to come.

It’s so refreshing to read well developed characters who know how to have a rollicking good time, bring those around them into their embrace (such as the son of the haughty and stern owner of the estate), and who love each other despite their differences. They have the kind of summer we all want to have–playing outside, mini-adventures that seem monumental in the moment, a first crush. There is no mention of TV, nor is there any self conscious authorial intrusion about the fun they’re having without TV in their lives–it’s a moot point. I love that.

I look forward to reading more of the Penderwicks. The author has just published the third in the series, and I know our library currently has the second on its shelves. Must stop by before heading out on vacation this weekend; I can’t think of a better book to take with me.

*This is actually not entirely true; these issues, however, are not present for one of the Penderwicks themselves, nor do they drive the storyline.

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