The Penderwicks Series
by Jeanne Birdsall
The Penderwicks!! I will forever be grateful to my brother, who insisted that I read this series. He’s been trying to get me to read them for a little bit, saying that I’d love them . . . and, he was absolutely right! I cannot give enough praise to Birdsall. She is creative and witty from her characters to her story line to her writing style. Whether you are a child or an adult (either gender), you should add these books to your “to read” list. As this post is reviewing all the books, there will be spoilers in the later books if you have not yet read any. As I write this, I have read four out of the five books in the series. Birdsall is currently writing book five (the final book), so I will edit this post once I finish the series. 🙂
Book One – The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy
In book one, we meet the four Penderwick sisters: Rosalind, Skye, Jane, and Batty. They are traveling with their father, Martin, and dog, Hound, to a cottage where they will spend some of the summer. You find out early on that their mother has died from cancer and they are carrying on the best they can without her. Soon after they arrive at their cottage, which is an old house keeper’s cottage, they meet a young gardener, who cautions them about exploring too much. Soon they discover why. The owner of the adjoining mansion is a cold, unkind woman who is very particular. They attempt to stay out of her way, while simultaneously befriending her son, Jeffery. They form a close bond with him and try to help him with the issues he has with his mother. Each daughter has her own personality that Birdsall effortlessly brings to life. While her story is humorous, it also is tender and heartwarming. You quickly root for her characters and want them to succeed. The ending is quite happy, without being cheesy.
Book Two – The Penderwicks on Gardam Street
Book two picks up where book one left off. It is now late September and the girls are back home and at school. Skye and Jane swap homework projects, which ends up in a hilarious debacle. Rosalind falls in love (spoiler: with Tommy), and Batty is her sweet, little self. The sisters’ aunt, Claire, comes for a visit, bringing a mysterious blue letter for their father. You learn that it is from his wife, asking him to be open to love again after her death. Claire (Martin’s sister) takes it upon herself to make him date and look for love. As you can imagine, this is not the best idea, but in the end, things all work out. Spoilers: he pretends to be dating a Marianne Dashwood (who, is actually a fictional character from Jane Austin’s Sense and Sensibility, his wife’s favorite book). He confesses and in the end actually falls for his next door neighbor, Iantha. She is perfect for them all and even has a young son, Ben. The book ends with them getting married in the Spring!
Book Three – The Penderwicks at Point Mouette
Book three begins in the following summer and finds the Penderwick family all split up for two weeks. Martin and Iantha are on their honeymoon in Europe (with Ben because he’s still so little); Rosalind is in New Jersey with her best friend, Anna; and Skye, Jane, Batty, Hound, Aunt Claire, and Jeffery are headed to a Maine cabin for 3 weeks. Jeffery is now at a Boston boarding school for music (his passion that his mother tried to stifle for years), and is thrilled to spend two weeks with his “extended family,” the Penderwicks. The story mainly follows the crew in Maine. Skye is the new OAP (oldest available Penderwick) and is extremely nervous about being in charge of her sisters. They arrive in Maine with no mishaps, but the two weeks are filled with a few misadventures, including a broken heart (and busted nose) for Jane, and a sprained ankle for Aunt Claire. Spoiler: the biggest surprise is that their friendly neighbor, Alec, turns out to be Jeffery’s long lost father. It is difficult at first for Jeffery to accept, as he thought his father had abandoned him (in fact his mother never told his father he existed), but in the end they become close. The family is reunited at the end of the two weeks, happy, and a little changed for having spent time apart.
Book Four – The Penderwicks In Spring
Book four picks up with the Penderwicks a few years older. Rosalind is a freshman in college, Batty is in fifth grade, and there is a new Penderwick – Lydia. The book mainly focuses on Batty who is dealing with a lot of sadness – Hound has passed away and she believes that it is her fault that their mother died years ago. She deals with these heavy things while discovering that she has a voice and can sing beautifully. The family also deals with the emotions of having Nick away fighting in the army. In a heartfelt ending, Batty accepts that her mother’s death was not her fault, and is able to both accept new dogs into her life and begin a singing career. It is a beautiful book, containing Birdsall’s heartening humor, as well as a deeper side. The blend of lightheartedness with intense emotions is what made me cry throughout the whole book! It was beautiful and had a lovely, fitting ending. I’m blown away by Birdsall’s talent, and I simply cannot wait for the final book (though at the same time, I don’t want the series to be over).
Summing it up: I absolutely recommend this series! The books are fun, clever, and enchanting, but totally be prepared to shed a few tears throughout!
All the best, Abbey