Monday, March 24, 2008

Contemporary Realistic Fiction: The Penderwicks

Birdsall, Jeanne. 2005. The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy. NY: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN: 0375931430.

* Winner of the 2006 National Book Award For Young People’s Literature *

In her first-ever book Birdsall has captured the charm of a family spending the summer away from the city that is reminiscent of many classic stories, including Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women and Francis Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden. With the wonderfully light yet strong narrative the story follows the Penderwick sisters – twelve-year-old and responsible Rosalind, spirited Skye, age eleven, Jane a ten-year-old budding writer, and the shy little four-year-old Batty – as the spend their summer up in the Berkshire Mountains in a rented cottage on the Arundel estate with their widowed botany professor father and faithful dog Hound. The adventures begin immediately upon the friendship with Jeffery, the son of the snobby owner Ms. Tifton, and the teenage gardener Cagney. However, despite the fun had by all the tension of the impending time when Jeffery, who is a talented pianist, is to be sent to military school grows stronger (especially with the help with Ms. Tifton’s “creepy” fiancé Mr. Dupree). Through strong bonds of family and friendship, however, the sisters help Jeffery gather the courage to finally tell his mom what he wanted to do with his life and the girls learn more about themselves. Like so many books before it, The Penderwicks will enchant readers for ages to come.

*Read the sequel to The Penderwicks: The Penderwicks on Gardam Street.
*Read Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women and discuss the similarities between the two books.

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