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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