I don’t always review the books I read out loud to my daughter, but in this case, I’ll make an exception. I needed a book with a rabbit on the cover, and one of the suggestions for that was The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall (Yearling, 2005). The Penderwick books are all over homeschooling blogs and book lists. I’d never read any of them before and missed them with my older child when we were homeschooling, so when I realized this was a Pop Sugar Reading Challenge option, I went, “Okay, let’s try this.” And it took me a bit, but I ended up falling in love with this book.
It’s summer vacation, and after a change in plans, the four Penderwick sisters – Rosalind, Skye, Jane, and Batty – are off with their father to a cottage on the Arundel estate. What’s supposed to be a relaxing time ends up chock-full of unexpected adventures. Jeffrey Tifton, the son of the owner, fits right in with the girls, despite his awful, snooty mother who’s determined to send him to military boarding school in order to turn him into her military father. Teenage gardener Cagney is just dreamy enough for twelve-year-old Rosalind to develop her first crush. Four-year-old Batty, well-meaning but prone to chaos, sets everyone off on wild goose chases multiple times, and Skye and Jane have goals and adventures of their own. It’s a summer to be remembered for all the Penderwick sisters, and Arundel is the perfect setting for them.
I can’t quite place my finger on why it took me a bit to get into this, but even up to about two-thirds of the way through, I was like, “Ehhhhh, it’s fine, it’s just not for me.” And then, suddenly, it clicked, and the full charm of the book hit me in the face like a two-by-four. I really enjoyed this; Ms. Birdsall has made all of the sisters unique in personality, but they still all work well together. The setting is idyllic; the estate is large and full of wonderful nature and places to explore (and get into trouble! There’s LOTS of trouble in this book, which makes it so much fun). Jeffrey fits right in with the sisters, and they involve themselves in the standoff with his awful mother immediately, which I loved.
How much did I love this book? We’ve since finished the second and are a third of the way into the third book of the series! I deeply enjoyed Ms. Birdsall’s illustration of the complexities of sister relationships and growing up, and my daughter loved this as well. I’m looking forward to reading all her other Penderwick books and seeing how the sisters grow.