The Penderwicks series by Jeanne Birdsall

I admit that when I  found the first book of this series in 2009, I was intrigued because of the name.  Since my last name is Prendergast, I’ve been called all kind of crazy variations since I got married in 1995.  I’ve told my students this story before, but the guys at my husband’s work used to bug him by giving him by a different name every time they would call for him over the intercom– “Mr. Flabbergast, you have a phone call on line 2.”  Stuff like that.  Naturally I had to go investigate these Penderwicks, whoever they were!  And really, how can you resist such a specific title as The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy?

The other thing that intrigued me was the cover art.  I liked how it looked old-fashioned, like the 1950’s books I would collect and read when I was growing up.  It looked…peaceful.  And simple– no magic, no wizards, no vampires, no cell phones, no dating, no end-of-the-world scenarios, nothing inappropriate at all.  As a side note, it also won a National Book Award in 2005, and has an AR level of 4.7 (book 2= 5.3, book 3= 5.6.)

This is a story about a family of four sisters, who are growing up together with their father in charge after their mother passes away.  Don’t worry though, it’s not a sad story. The girls range in age from 4 to 12, and they all have very distinctive personalities.  They bicker and get on each other’s nerves like sisters do, but they truly love each other and you can feel it in how they treat each other.  Because their usual summer house is no longer available, the family has to rent a cottage somewhere else.  They end up renting a guest house on the same property as a large mansion and they all move there for the summer.  Of course the girls must find out who lives in the big house and lo and behold, an only child named Jeffery lives there.  He’s been a little sheltered and his mother is a little cranky, so he is overjoyed to be out playing and having fun (and getting in a little trouble, too.)  Jeffery’s mom also has a cranky boyfriend and they want to send him off to military school.  Can the girls help out? Will they cause more problems?  Fun adventures await!

I loved this book because it was a sweet story about a family working together, having fun, and being kind and helpful.  No drama, no bad language, nothing difficult to understand, just a nice story with some well-developed characters.  With four sisters to choose from, readers will be able to choose the one that reminds them of themselves.  This is a book to read while laying on a blanket under a tree.  It’s light and breezy and delightful.  I have personally only read books #1 and 2, but #3 just came out last year and it’s on my to-read list for summer.

Read these if you like books by Edward Eager or E. Nesbit, or enjoy stories like The Secret Garden and A Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

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Last/Current/Next

Here’s a game I like to play with some of my friends in another book club.  Post what you just finished reading, what you are reading now, and what you’ve got on deck to read next.  I’m always reminding my students to make a reading plan and to make a note of what you would like to read next, whether it’s the next book in a series or something that caught your eye at the bookstore.  I spent time over the weekend browsing some book reviews, downloading reading samples onto my Nook, and creating a reading “wish list” in preparation for summer vacation. (I know.  I’m a big nerd. And this didn’t even take into account the books I already have here waiting for me!)

Here’s what my reading plan looks like right now:

  • Last: Maroo of the Winter Caves (for school), Jeneration X (at home)
  • Current: The Westing Game (for silent reading time), The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict (at home)
  • Next: A Dance with Dragons (book 5 in a massive fantasy series for adults)

What about you? What’s your plan?

The Last Apprentice series by Joseph Delaney

I’ll start with this series because I just bought and read book #5 , Wrath of the Bloodeye.   You all seem to like scary stories, so these are great and there will ultimately be 13 books once the whole series is done.  These should keep you reading for a long time!  These are AR books and they range from level 5.5 and up.

In these stories, we learn about a boy named Tom Ward. He is twelve years old in the first book, but most importantly, he is also the seventh son of a seventh son.  This birth order gives him the ability to see, hear and fight against those things that go bump in the night.  Because his family is so big, he is apprenticed to the county Spook, a man named John Gregory.  A Spook is kind of like a Ghostbuster; he travels around the country tracking and trapping witches and other dark creatures.  People call on him when they need to get rid of a ghost or a boggart, and John Gregory shows up to deal with their problems.  He starts teaching Tom all of the rules about each kind of haunting, the behaviors and weaknesses of the creatures, and how to deal with all sorts of spooky situations.  Tom tells each story and includes his journal notes at the end of each book.

I love an author who can create a whole world, with specific rules about how things work.  Some of these stories made the hair on the back of my neck stand up because they gave me the chills due to how creeptastic they were.  (Creeptastic? It’s a word!)  The characters are complex and everyone is more than they seem to be, which leads to questions as to who will be loyal and who is to be trusted.  Beware girls with pointy shoes!

Read these books if you ever shared the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark  books with your friends, but you are ready to take it to the next level of spooktacular goodness.  (Spooktacular, also a word.  I should know because I’m an English teacher!)  These are not the simple, predictable scares of the Goosebumps books either, so be forewarned.  As a bonus, the cover art and pictures inside are really neat, too.  Check out the website for more info, but turn your speakers down…unless you are braver than me. http://www.harpercollinschildrens.com/kids/gamesandcontests/features/lastapprentice/