I have mentioned Jeanne Birdsall’s Penderwicks in so many blog posts of mine that I am wondering if some of you have had enough of them already. That may be the case for some of you. However, this will never be the case for me as my devotion and love for Jeanne Birdsall’s novels goes back so many years that I couldn’t, cannot and won’t picture my life without this family. Just now, let me explain why I love the Penderwicks.
#1. Reason: Not much of a reason, just a sneak peak into each story to convince you of their greatness
The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits and a Very Interesting Boy (#Book 1):
Although the title might sound like it’s for small children, it really isn’t. In fact, small children probably wouldn’t understand all the jokes and the meaning of this book. The four sisters Rosalind (12), Skye (11), Jane (10) and Batty (4) have decided to spend their summer alongside their father Martin Penderwick and their beloved dog Hound at a holiday home called “Arundel”. What they don’t know yet is, that the owner of the estate Mrs. Tifton, who is as devious as one can be, has the most lovely son, Jeffrey, who must have inherited his unknown father’s genes. Together, the five children spend the most precious summer ever, with many adventures involving a monsterous stepfather, a cruel mother, a dangerous bull and a magical estate.
The Penderwicks on Gardam Street (#Book 2):
This is my favorite book of all of the five, because it simply is the funniest, has the best story is just INCREDIBLE. Back at home, the four sisters get a surprise visit from their beloved Aunt Claire. But while she usually brings gifts, she now brings a letter from their mother, addressed to their father and written just before she died: After a few years of mourning, Mr. Penderwick should move on and see new women. Promising their mother to help him, Aunt Claire sets up a few blind dates for her brother with a new rule: He must date at least four women a month. This, the sisters cannot let happen and therefore come up with a brilliant plan: The Save-Daddy Plan.
The Penderwicks at Point Mouette (#Book 3):
One year after visiting Arundel in summer, the three younger sisters visit Maine with their Aunt Claire in summer, while their older sister is staying at her friend’s. Skye is struggling with keeping Batty safe as she is the oldest Penderwick sister, Jane is falling in love and Batty is discovering her love for music with Jeffrey. New people, old people, a very annoying dog, a broken nose and maybe a new family addition await the Penderwicks.
The Penderwicks in Spring (#Book 4):
Batty is now almost eleven, Skye and Jane are in high school and Rosalind is in college. With new family members, this book revolves more around Batty, her talent for music and an unwanted overheard conversation that will change her life. Although this book goes deeper this time, no need to miss the old Penderwick humor as Jeanne Birdsall’s still up for some quality time of laughing.
The Penderwicks at Last (#Book 5):
This book only came out this year and therefore there is an entry available (Review). However, I will quickly explain the plot along with personal thoughts!
Batty is in high school by now, Skye is studying Astrophysics, Jane is a waitress and writes books at home and Rosalind is about to get married. To the ones we all hoped! However, the four sisters aren’t the protagonists this book, it’s the latest family addition, ten year old Lydia.
To be honest, I couldn’t connect with Lydia, the older sisters were mentioned WAY TOO LITTLE and Skye’s future is not what I had planned for her. But let’s keep the negative energy away and focus on the good stuff, shall we?
#2. Reason: They make me laugh out loud
I have never experience a family nor a book which made me laugh out loud, not only the first time reading, but also the second, the third, the fourth and so on. Jeanne Birdsall, I can only assume, is one of the most humorous people I have had the chance to get to know – and if it is only on paper and in my mind. She can turn the most normal activity into something that makes you laugh, she can create characters full of liveliness and humor you can’t even think of, and she can tell the story of a family that had to go through so very much in a way that makes you feel like you have known these people your whole life.
Here are some quotes I think represent her humor quite well:
Skye to Jane about doing each other’s homework in The Penderwicks on Gardam Street:
“Jane”, she said, climbing down from the chair. “Remember last year when I built that model wind tower for you and you wrote those poems for me?”
“And you said you’d never switch homework assignments with me again.”
“For good reason. My teacher had a hard time believing I wrote Tra-la the joy of tulips blooming, Ha-ha the thrill of bumblebees zooming. I’m alive and I dance, I’m alive though death is always looming. When I finally convinced her that I had, she asked me if I needed to talk to the school counselor.”
Mr. Penderwick to his daughters after an escalated soccer match in The Penderwicks on Gardam Street:
“The referee told me this league has never had a brawl of that magnitude,” said Mr. Penderwick after a long, painful silence. “Of course, at the time I was pretending to be a casual passerby and not a father at all.”
#3. Reason: The Characters are pure gold
There are no characters I adore more than the Penderwicks and there are no characters I got to know better than the Penderwicks. The two sisters in the middle, Skye and Jane, are illustrated the best, in my point of view. They couldn’t be more opposite. Skye loves soccer and maths, is tidy and doesn’t care about boys or looks or anyone’s opinion. Jane’s passion is writing with the dream of becoming an author someday, she is a romantic poet and untidy. Together, these two can create big disasters and calculate Master Plans.
With their many different stories, the four girls, their father, their dog Hound and their loyal friend Jeffrey can create books full of laughter, sadness, excitement and excellence you can’t imagine a book about a family could even have.
#4. Reason: The books go deep
These books are not all “pure happiness” as this family has suffered some tragedies during their early years. The girls’ mother died of cancer only two weeks after giving birth to her youngest daughter Batty, leaving the oldest sister in charge with the thought being the mother’s replacement. Although Mr. Penderwick is in many ways a lovable and carrying father, these girls do miss a woman’s touch in their lives – which is the subject of The Penderwicks on Gardam Street, but don’t worry, the book isn’t sad. Furthermore, the books deals with subjects like growing responsibility, first loves and sisterhood.
#5. Reason: These books are for all ages
I read the first Penderwick book at the age of five or six and I still read them now. My parents often read them to me when I was little and we all listened to the audiobooks while driving long hours in the car and my parents love them as well. All of my friends liked the books, although they didn’t read them at such a young age as I did. So that proves it, right, whether your a small child, a teenager or a grown up, everyone loves the Penderwicks!
For me, the first three books are clearly the best because I don’t like it when characters grow up. It simply doesn’t fit and it didn’t suit the Penderwicks. The four original sisters were Jeanne Birdsall’s best work and are therefore my favorites of all time! I did like the fourth book, but I heavily disliked the fifth, as already mentioned above.
My favorite characters are Jane and Skye as I consider myself a mixture of them both and always wanted to be exactly them when I was little.
All in all, I hope this point could persuade you to give my favorite novels a shot and that you enjoyed this entry as much as I enjoyed creating it! Have a great day!