Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The Penderwicks

The Penderwicks: a Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy is a first novel by Jeanne Birdsall. It is also a National Book Award winner. This award was established in 1950 to recognize outstanding literature written by American authors. They are given in the areas of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and young peoples’ literature. Other recent winners in the area of young peoples’ literature were The Godless, The Canning Season, House of the Scorpion, True Believer, Homeless Bird, and When Zachary Beaver Came to Town.


I don’t know why, but this book brought to mind the feelings I had when I read the Bobsey Twins series when I was young. The Penderwicks are a close-knit family of four girls and their father; their mother died when Batty was just an infant. Father seems to be a rather absent minded professor of botany who frequently speaks in Latin phrases to his children. The story finds them unable to go to their usual summer cottage, but Father finds Arundel. It turns out to be a cottage on a beautiful estate.


Rosiland is the oldest, 12, and she has always mothered the others since her mother’s death. On this trip she meets Cagney, the teenaged gardener on the estate, and he steals her heart. Cagney is also the owner of Yaz and Carla, the two rabbits. Skye, 11, looks different than the other girls – she has blue eyes. She is thrilled because she not only does not have to share a room, but she even has two beds! Jane, 10, and hopes to be a writer – she is working on novels with the heroine being Sabrina Star. Batty, 4, is the baby who never talks to strangers and wears butterfly wings. Her best friend is the family dog, Hound. Jeffery is the very interesting boy – the owner's son, a talented musician, and becomes a good friend to the girls.


The adventure ends when the Penderwicks must go home to Camden from their vacation. The ending leaves you hoping that the adventures of the Penderwicks will continue in other novels.

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