Monday, May 12, 2008

The Penderwicks

There seems to be a fairly large supply of sisters in literature. The Ingalls sisters, the Bronte sisters, the Bennett sisters, the March sisters and now the Penderwick sisters. There are probably more than those, but that's all my sun-muddled brain can come up with at the moment. I've been reading out on my deck and I need to do this with a pair of sunglasses because it's going to make me blind one of these days. White pages, bright sun, no good.

Anyhoo, back to sisters. "The Penderwicks: a summer tale of four sisters, two rabbits and a very interesting boy" by Jeanne Birdsall is a good contribution to the literary pack of sisters. It's the tale of Rosalind, Skye, Jane and Batty who go to a cottage in the New England mountains for three weeks one summer and the adventures they have there. Their father is a widower and botany professor who often speaks in Latin. He fits the absent-minded professor role perfectly. Rosalind is the standard oldest sister who worries about everything and always follows the rules. Skye has no patience and is hot-tempered and obsessed with math. Jane talks like something out of a 19th century romance novel, which is a bit surprising for a ten-year-old. Batty is four, very shy and loves animals. Each sister is very different from the others in personality and temperment, which is pretty much how siblings end up. They have these acronyms that they use for protocol, such as MOPS (Meeting of Penderwick Sisters) for serious discussion of problems at hand or OAP (Oldest Available Penderwick) for who has to take charge or apologize, if necessary.

This is a pretty fun portrayal of sisters and a somewhat accurate description of large families. They tease, point out each other's flaws, defend each other, and Rosalind often acts as a mother figure to these motherless children. The cottage they stay at is on the grounds of a mansion owned by a shrewish woman who thinks the Penderwicks to be common and doesn't want her son to spend time with them. The book kept reminding me of "Little Women" until I realized that I have never read "Little Women." Despite my efforts, I have not yet read every Great Classic. There are too many vampire books out there that need read. Back to my point. Even though the book is set in a nebulous contemporary setting, it feels very old-fashioned. The father uses a computer for research, the girls play soccer on the lawn, but it's not very important to the plot of the book. The girls' relationships with each other and their new friend are the best parts.

There's a sequel that I just got from the library, so it's in my stack to read soon. I think these books will probably be worthy of an addition to my personal library. I can see each of my children identifying with a sister or being frustrated with others. I have hopes that these turn out to be enjoyable one after another.


  1. Hi Jenny, The Penderwicks sound like fun girls. I really like it when the people come alive in the pages. I also love your quotes. One of the things I like best about my Palm Pilot is that I can carry 30+ books easily with me at all times. Great blog, great post.

  2. This sounds like a great book. I can't wait to read it!