By Jeanne Birdsall
Published by: Yearling 2005
Finally a fill good novel with as everyone said "old fashioned charm." This was just my type of book and if you enjoy books with happy endings, children that get into innocent trouble but are not bad then this is your type of book. The Penderwicks are a family of girls, four girls to be exact, that are being cared for by their father because their mother passed away of cancer. Rosalind, Skye, Jane, and "Batty" are out for adventure when their father rents a cottage for three weeks in the summer. The cottage is attached to Arundel, a large mansion house with a grumpy owner, Mrs. Tifton. Mrs. Tifton has a son named Jeffery that is the same age as the Penderwick sisters. Together they spend the summer getting into mischief, making Mrs. Tifton angry at every turn, and saving Jeffery from a life of growing up at a military academy.
This book gets many reviews for being old fashioned however it didn't feel old fashioned in it's setting. The children are in modern times but what makes it old fashioned is the fact that the children do not use things such as cell phones, Ipads, television, or texting. Instead they are left to use their imaginations and find fun with every day outside playing. Rosalind, the oldest Penderwick, even talks about constantly writing and sending her friend Anna letters about Cagney, the teenage gardener that she has a crush on.. In one point in the book Batty, the youngest Penderwick and her sister Rosalind are catching fireflies and putting them into jars. This is something that I myself did with my younger brother all summer when we were little. I think this type of nostalgia is what makes the book feel old fashioned,. How many times have you heard someone say well when I was little we played all day and night OUTSIDE. We didn't spend all day playing video games and Facebooking. I don't consider myself that old and I can say that that was my childhood and probably something that would come out of my mouth, which is why I can identify with the book and love it so, it took me back to that innocent time.
With that being said, I wonder how much today's young children could relate to this. Of course many children play soccer, which Jane, Skye, and Jeffery do everyday, but they are probably not used to writing stories in their notebooks and going on adventures part of their everyday routines. I still think that many children, especially young girls would love the book for the well developed characters and even can probably find something to connect in one of them because they are all so different.
Rosalind who is the oldest at the age of 12, is the caretaker in this story. She is the true oldest sister and in many ways as the oldest sister in my family can really relate to her. My youngest brother who I might add is 10 years younger than me once told my own mom that it was okay if she died one day because he knew that his sissy could take care of him for her. This story kept making me think of my relationships with my brother and how I too was a mother hen to them. Rosalind does this and Birdsall lets us know this all throughout the book. She gives away the best room in the house to Skye, because she "wanted to be near Batty." We see her tuck her sister in and gives her bedtime stories, she takes care of Jane when she is sick, she helps smooth out problems and listens to her sisters when they need her, and she bakes the brownies for others. She has essential taken over for her mother who is no longer there. She has a lot on her shoulders and sometimes I feel bad for her, especially when Batty goes missing. Rosalind is crying saying " Oh this is all my fault! I promised I promised Mommy I would take care of her." She has a lot of responsibility but she handles it well.
We also see her "fall in love" with Cagney and she get's "that hit by a truck feeling" that I think many girls can identify with when they think about their first love and the heartbreak when it didn't work out.
Skye, the 11 year old sister, has a different personality and is somewhat of a fireball. She looks different than her sisters having blond hair and blue eyes and wants to be a mathematician when she gets older. She only agreed to wear a dress to the birthday party "after a long debate" and "because Churchie found a slim black one that reminded Skye of a dress her mother used to wear." The other sisters were excited to wear their dresses. Skye says how she feels and is constantly putting her foot in her mouth. She also makes it known that she does not like Batty tagging along and does not seem to have the patience for things such as baking. She is what some would call the "tomboy" of the group of sisters.
Jane, the author, is 10. She creates fantastic stories about Sabrina Star and she is working on one throughout the entire book. She is also great at soccer and often lives in a fantasy world. She is amazed by Jeffery's house and the antiques in it. She is the mediator a lot of times and the more level headed one but is also the emotional one. Then there is little Batty. Batty who did not know her mother because she died of cancer right after she was born is shy and lovable. She hides behind her sisters and love animals. She talks to her "hound" and even falls in love with Cagney's bunnies. She also wear wings and is constantly asking about stories about her mother. I can't help but get a mother daughter feel from her and Rosalind.
There is so much to this book that it is impossible to get to it all and they are just four of the characters in the book. They are lovable, you care for them, but are also proud of them because they stick up for themselves and are taking care of themselves and sometimes even their father. The bond they share is a fresh new look on how children should love their brothers and sisters. They even have a club called MOPS. Meeting of the Penderwick Sisters and their own oath and hand gestures. They have innocent fun together which is something that I wish more of our own children in today's society had but I feel technology has taken some of that away. I can't wait to see how the sisters grow and change in the next few books because yes this is a series and the next two are already out. I will be getting those as well and hopefully reading them to my own daughter as great wholesome books one day that she will hopefully love.