Monday, October 24, 2011

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: The Penderwicks

I know, I know. The Penderwicks has been out for years. Since 2005 to be exact. And the second one, The Penderwicks on Gardham Street, since 2008. But.....the most recent, The Penderwicks at Point Mouette, just released in May 2011. And I heard a rumor that Jeanne Birdsall has two more books planned for the Penderwick sisters, so really, I'm chiming in mid-action (at least that's what I'm going with).

For years I saw The Penderwicks on my local library shelf but never read it. Or the second one when it came out. But my son did--and loved them both. In fact, he finished the third one before me too. It wasn't until I noticed an unblemished, hardcover copy of The Penderwicks at Half-Price Books for $4.98 that I took the plunge. And I'm in love. With all of them. When I finished the first, I immediately drove to the library and checked out the second and third. And smacked my palm to my forehead at what I'd been missing.

The premise: The four Penderwick sisters live with their botanist father (their mother died four years prior to the opening story) and their silly dog Hound. The sisters are ages 12, 11, 10, and 4 when we first meet them, and they're spending two weeks at a cottage on the huge Arundel estate. Here they meet Jeffrey, who becomes an honorary Penderwick and best friend. The girls embark upon an adventure to save him from his mother and her plans for Jeffrey's life. In the second book, the sisters plan to save their father from dating, and in the third, Jeffrey rejoins the Penderwicks on another summer vacation where all kinds of changes encounter the sisters and Jeffrey.

What keeps readers reading: Delightfully real and rounded characters who live a believable life. The sisters--Rosalind, Skye, Jane, and Batty--are unique and each is given a voice in the stories. Jeanne Birdsall uses their varying points of view, even Hound at times, to share the adventures of this charming family. The sisters get in all sorts of scrapes, trouble, and hard places as they deal with growing up. And even though the family has four sisters, there are many boy characters involved which rounds out the all-girl family. A soft humor is wielded throughout The Penderwick series which provides laughs along with the bumps of life.

If, like me, you're a late-comer to The Penderwicks, never fear, these tales are truly timeless--and so quintessentially middle grade. I eagerly await Jeanne Birdsall's next installment!

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Happy middle grade reading!    

17 comments:

  1. Barbara, I've read them all and loved them all too. (I reviewed the third one back in May when it came out.) These books have such a lovely, timeless quality. And I've sold them to people shopping for boys as well as girls, which always surprises me because I think of them as "girl books." So I'm glad to hear your son loved them. And I promise to stop thinking of them as girl books! Glad you finally took the plunge.

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  2. Silly me, to base my decisions on book covers--but the covers failed to excite my synapses. Now I've heard them referred to as "timeless" many times... but the deciding factor is that your SON loved them. We are all boy over here, so it is time to take the plunge. (The third book is also a Cybils nominee and therefore in my 145 book reading pile!)

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  3. I agree with Michael. The book covers are so retro that I didn't realize they have only been around from 2005. I will have to check them out. Thanks for the review.

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  4. I've only read the Summer Tale one and LOVED every second of it. So I'm certain the other two are just as delightful :)

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  5. Glad to read your review. I have the first one and just haven't gotten to reading it yet. I definitely will move it up the to-read list!

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  6. Love, love, love the Penderwicks! My daughter is eagerly waiting for more.

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  7. When a book appeals to both girls and boys in a middle grade market, that's a mark of quality writing middle grade writing, I think.

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  8. I keep hearing how wonderful these are. I really need to read them. Thanks for the reminder!

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  9. I loved The Penderwicks. I met Jeanne at a book festival when it first came out and got to meet her. She's such a nice person.

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  10. I tried to read one of these once and didn't get into it. But after reading this, I'm thinking I should try again!

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  11. Yeah, I can't believe it took you so long!
    Duh.

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  12. I'm late to these ones too, Barbara. Thanks for putting them back on my radar. The series sounds lovely.

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  13. I haven't read these yet, but one of my good friends (also a librarian) LOVES them!! :-)

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  14. Okay, okay, I'm going to the library tonight! Hehe, I haven't read these yet. Thank you for the enthusiastic reminder! :-)

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  15. love these books, love them. glad you did too!

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  16. I LOVE these books, and was so excited when the first won the NBA. I'm careful with what I buy, but I will own however many Penderwicks books she writes.

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Comments. They're almost as good as chocolate. Almost.