by Jeanne Birdsall
First sentence: “The Penderwick family was being torn apart.”
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How can I express my love for the Penderwicks?
Honestly? I can’t. I adore them, I want to be a part of their world.
Though I’ve noticed something: I think the Penderwicks are better when they’re on vacation than when they are at home.
This time, newly wed Dad and Iantha are off to England for a conference/honeymoon and Rosalind is off to a much-deserved vacation with her friend Anna to New Jersey. The rest of the Penderwicks — acting OAP (Oldest Available Penderwick) Skye, Jane and Batty, plus honorary Penderwick brother Jeffrey — are off with their Aunt Claire to a lovely little cottage in Maine for two weeks.
Perhaps it’s the lovely little cottages that make the books so wonderful? I’m beginning to think that everyone should have a vacation at a lovely little cottage.
Things happen at Point Mouette, of course. They meet a lovely next-door neighbor, Alec, who has an annoying dog but a wonderful piano; some more honorary siblings and a first-love in Mercedes and Dominic, who are staying at the Inn with their grandparents. They have adventures, discover things, bond, fight, and are just thoroughly wonderful.
I know this has been said many times, but it’s really the main charm of the book: I love how Birdsall combines an old-fashioned feel with the modern times. These books aren’t historical, they aren’t set anytime other than present, and yet they feel timeless. You could picture Anne Shirley or the March sisters having the adventures that the Penderwick girls have, and yet threaded through the books are modern themes like divorce and bad mothers and cancer. It’s a wonderful balance, something which gives these books their charm, and pulls readers in (and it’s not just adults; my daughters adore the Penderwicks) and holds them there, making them fall in love with the characters.
This is why I read.