Five-Star Friday: The Penderwicks

4 May

Five-Star Friday is a periodically regular (say what?!) feature that I’m planning on running on Fridays (but not every Friday) in which I talk about (or verbally drool over) a book that I’ve read and ADORED (sometimes they’ll be recent releases and other times they might be older…my piles are tall and the bottoms are old). Yay! I always feel so happy and light and wonderful when I am beside myself with delight over a book, and I want to share the love with you all in the hopes that we can all get together and have an embarrassing, squeal-filled love-fest full of lots of high-pitched “Ohmygod, I KNOW!s” and chest-clutching sighs of contentedness. Huzzah!*

Well, HELLO THERE, Five-Star Friday! Been a while, friend! Hopefully I’ll be able to make up for my long absence by talking up one of my very favorite middle grades, THE PENDERWICKS: A SUMMER TALE OF FOUR SISTERS, TWO RABBITS, AND A VERY INTERESTING BOY. Sigh. I love me some Penderwicks, guys. 

Book cover for The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall

So, how many times a week do I mention THE PENDERWICKS by Jeanne Birdsall guys? I swear that every time I mention them it’s totally genuine love I’m showering on them; I don’t MEAN to throw them in your faces. But I’m totally not going to apologize either because this family–this quirky, lovable, tight-knit, endearing, funny family–makes my heart grow and brings me mad happiness. These Penderwicks are really special, guys. 

THE PENDERWICKS is the first book in a planned five-book series (there have been three books so far, all AWESOME), and it details a summer vacation that the four Penderwick sisters–Rosalind, Skye, Jane, and Batty–spend renting a cottage on a larger home’s property in the Berkshires with their dad and their dog, Hound. Some background: Their mom died shortly after she gave birth to the baby, Batty, who is four (Rosalind is 12, Skye is 11, and Jane is 10). Their father is a professor at a college in a Camdrige, MA-esque town, and together, the five of them are learning to make their way in the world. But these books aren’t about grieving. Their mother’s death is several years in the past, and the remaining Penderwicks have been doing just fine for themselves. Honestly, though? The Penderwicks attract shenanigans wherever they go. And this summer in Arundel is NO EXCEPTION. 

While in the cottage for the summer, Rosalind gets her first crush, on the gardener for the big house (Desperate Housewives of The Berkshires style!), who is in high school, so it’s not totally weird, although it does get a little awkward-cute. Batty runs around being ADORBS LIKE WHOA, getting into four-year-old trouble with her BFF, Hound. Seriously, I would adopt Batty. She’s freaking the cutest thing ever. And not to be forgotten, Skye and Jane befriend a mysterious boy who lives in the big house with his HAG of a mom. This sweet, charming, funny, mischievous boy is Jeffery. Guys, Jeffrey is THE BOMB. More on him in a sec. 

The action in THE PENDERWICKS is really retro in THE BEST, most charming way. There’s no cell phones, no computers, I don’t even think the cottage has a TV, so as you’re reading Jeanne Birdsall‘s book, it might be hard to tell that it’s actually set in our time. Because the girls don’t ever bitch about being unplugged. They have vibrant, creative, unique personalities–Rosalind is your typical oldest sister, all responsible mama bear; Skye is smart, plucky, strident, and rough around the edges; Jane is dramatic, flighty, romantic and HILARIOUS; and BATTY…well, I hug her in my mind every time she appears because she’s a DOLL. Together, they GO OUTSIDE and run around, play games, use their imaginations. It’s like I DON’T EVEN KNOW HOW THEY LIVE without phones, iPods, computers, and a TV in every room, guys *sarcasm*. It’s kind of fantastic. 

I’ve seen lots of people compare the Penderwicks and Jeffrey to the Marches and Laurie from LITTLE WOMEN. I didn’t notice this at first, but HOLY HELL it’s totally accurate. Rosalind is SO Meg it’s bananas, Skye is Jo is Skye, Jane is kind of a mix of Amy and Jo, and Batty is Beth. And guys. Jeffrey is Laurie and it’s AWESOME. He’s so sweet and wonderful and GAH! I love him. They all have that same kind of connection, too, but in a fresh way. If Jeffrey doesn’t wind up married to a Penderwick, something is WRONG with the world. I love them all. 

Jeanne Birdsall creates this really great atmosphere in THE PENDERWICKS. It’s quiet but not boring, sweet but not treacly, bittersweet sometimes but not a downer. It’s the closest thing I’ve read to NORMAL in all its crazy, unassuming glory that I can recall reading in a LONG time. Sometimes things happen that might be teeny stretches, but honestly, it’s all so heartwarming and fabulous that it never bothered me ONCE. 

I hope you guys all get a chance to read THE PENDERWICKS. You won’t want to leave them when you’re finished. (THANKFULLY, you don’t have to! Huzzah! You can pick up THE PENDERWICKS ON GARDAM STREET and THE PENDERWICKS AT POINT MOUETTE.) They’re not flashy, there’s nothing life or death going on, no ghosts or vampires or corrupt governments. It’s a totally different kind of everyday drama. The Penderwicks are just a family of girls without a mom, raising each other with their adorkable dad, getting into some innocent but real fun. I ADORE them to bits and pieces.  


*So, I know that this feature is called “Five-Star Friday,” intimating that I have five-star ratings on this blog. Alas, I’m still figuring out whether or not to have a rating system here, BUT I do always diligently rate all the books I read on my Goodreads page. The five-star titles of which I speak here are taken from my “Favorites” shelf there.


9 Responses to “Five-Star Friday: The Penderwicks”

  1. Pocketful of Books (@PocketfulofBook) May 5, 2012 at 1:54 pm #

    I HAVE to read this- it sounds adorable! I love books like this- old houses and Little Women esque families! Thank you for the brilliant review and making me even poorer 😛 x

    • trippingbooks May 6, 2012 at 10:20 am #

      I can’t even apologize for making your poorer if you’re going to be spending money on The Penderwicks, haha. It IS adorable. I hope you LOVE it so much 🙂

  2. Hannah May 5, 2012 at 8:56 pm #

    I want to read these SOOO bad now! I’ve seen them on several of your Tuesday lists, but this post totally sold me. I adore Little Women, and I would love anything reminiscent of that. Also, I’m all about the quiet, not flashy, innocent but real fun 🙂

    • trippingbooks May 6, 2012 at 10:22 am #

      HANNAH! READ ITTTT! I think you’d love it. I honestly didn’t notice the Little Women vibe until I read it somewhere else, but now I can’t believe I missed it. But it’s not a retelling, you know? It’s just so lovely and the kids are all so sweet together, even when they bicker. SIGH. The Penderwicks has your name on it, Hannah 🙂

  3. April C (@booksandwine) May 6, 2012 at 12:53 am #

    I own a copy of the first book, but it’s sitting on myself unread and unloved. Sigh. THIS REVIEW THOUGH. I love quirky families and sisterhood and big personalities and the March Sisters and Laurie and being unplugged. The Penderwicks totes sounds like a ME book.

    • trippingbooks May 6, 2012 at 10:38 am #

      Unloved Penderwicks need love! Holy crap, April, I DIE waiting for you to read this book. It is a book for YOU.

  4. Heidi May 6, 2012 at 12:25 pm #

    Shenanigans? I love shenanigans! And if that, and the retro feel wasn’t enough to convince me (and quite frankly it was), the comparison to the Marchs and Laurie has me ready to knock other readers out of the way to get a hold of this book!


  1. In My Mailbox (27) « Tripping Over Books - May 12, 2012

    […] Penderwicks at Point Mouette: The Penderwicks #3 by Jeanne Birdsall. OBVIOUSLY. We all know how much I love the Penderwicks. I have a soft spot for this book because of two things: One, it takes place in Maine. LOVE the […]

  2. Recommend A…(11) « Tripping Over Books - July 30, 2012

    […] do my love justice here, but trust me. They are seriously the most adorable, retro awesome family. I adore them to bits and pieces. Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like […]

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