The Penderwicks on Gardam Street

I knew I would love this book. The first charmed its way into all our hearts around here — I picked it up on a whim at the bookstore, drawn by the title, and never regretted the purchase — and because Jen, Leila, and Erin all highly recommended it, I knew going in that this one would be just as wonderful.

There are books that are exciting and thrilling, holding you on the edge of your chair; there are books that make you laugh; and there are books that contain numerous twists and turns of plot, intricately setting up the conclusion. The Penderwicks on Gardam Street is not one of those books.

Then there are the books that you just smile at, content knowing the end from nearly the beginning, savoring the characters and loving the plot — such as it is — and patiently waiting for the characters to realize what you already know. The Penderwicks on Gardam Street is one of those books.

All the things I loved about the first book are back: the sisters, of course, but especially Batty (she’s at that wonderful, fun, precocious age); their lovable, endearing, slightly absent-minded father; boys to be friends with (their neighbors across the street — though I admit that I did miss Jeffrey); the scrapes the girls get themselves in to; and the wonderful, fun, evocative language. And there are new things to love: an amazing, smart, fun, interesting new next-door-neighbor with a very cute toddler whose one word is “Duck”; a scheme to keep their dad from dating, as his sister Claire seems determined to have him do; a neighborhood forest for exploring and hiding; and a little bit of learning and maturing on everyone’s part.

Other reasons to like the Penderwick family:

[Jane] hated finishing one of her favorite books, because she knew she’d have to wait at least a few months before she could read it again. It was a rule she’d imposed on herself after reading The Various twice in one week — a disaster, like eating three large slices of chocolate cake at one sitting.

He hung up the phone with a bang. “Here’s some advice, daughters. Try to avoid having younger sisters.”
“Too late for that, Daddy,” said Jane.

[Batty] must have done it well, because Hound nuzzled her joyfully, and then she pounced on hi, and they wrestled around the yard until they knocked the red wagon over and all the animals tumbled out. And then there was putting them back in, which was fun, and altogether, it was turning out to be an okay afternoon, even if Rosalind had scolded her for being noisy.

I have to agree that it’s a practically perfect book in every way.

(Just for the record: because this is a Cybils nominee, I’ve been asked to make sure y’all know this is my opinion only, and not that of the panel. Thank you.)

One thought on “The Penderwicks on Gardam Street

  1. I’m glad that you loved this book too, Melissa! I think this “content knowing the end from nearly the beginning, savoring the characters and loving the plot — such as it is — and patiently waiting for the characters to realize what you already know”, captures this book perfectly. Usually I don’t like to see the ending quite so early – I like it when the author can fool me, and the ending is something else. But in this case, I would have been devastated by that (and I knew that Jeanne Birdsall wouldn’t do that to her readers anyway).


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