I finally got a chance to read this third book in the Penderwick series, and I can tell anyone who hasn’t already read it that it’s just as good as the first two books about the Penderwick family of four girls—Rosalind, Skye, Jane and Batty—having adventures and growing up.
In this particular installment of the Penderwick saga, Jane falls in love herself when she tries to write a romance for her bold protagonist, Sabrina Starr. Skye becomes the OAP (oldest available Penderwick sister) while Rosalind takes a vacation. And Batty collects golf balls, makes a new friend, wears a large orange life jacket through most of the story, and discovers her own special giftedness. Jeffrey, the girls’ friend from the first book, is back, and many of the adventures involve Jeffrey and his musical talents and his family trials and tribulations.
I truly think the Penderwick series is going to go down in history as classic children’s lit, comparable to Beverly Cleary’s Ramona books and Elizabeth Enright’s Melendy family series. I’ve picked a couple of samples of Ms. Birdsall’s spot-on depiction of sisters who really love each other, through thick and thin.
This paragraph is Skye, trying to decide what to do about Jane who has developed an unfortunate crush on a skateboarding BOY!
“Skye managed to get off the porch and outside without punching Jane in the nose and making it swollen all over again, and she was quite proud of that, at least. But now she was really concerned. How could she protect Jane from this idiocy? Wondering what Caesar or Napoleon would do in this situation was worthless. Skye needed a tree to kick now, immediately. Poor patient birch trees—this wasn’t the treatment they deserved. But kicking them calmed Skye down a little, enough to help her realize that she did after all have someone she could talk to about boys, crushes, and dancing with Popsicle sticks. Aunt Claire, of course. Skye apologized to the birch trees and began to plot how to broach these painful subjects without giving away Jane’s secrets.”
And here’s a totally different passage, different in tone and content, about the Penderwicks’ friend Jeffrey and his mentor playing music for them
“From Jeffrey’s clarinet poured a haunting, stirring melody, a soaring string of notes that floated out over the ocean. All alone Jeffrey played, his eyes closed in concentration, until it seemed that the song was ending. But then Alec’s saxophone joined the clarinet, and together the man and the boy again played the heart-stopping tune, note for note. The girls clung to each other, each one feeling as though she’d never really heard music before, and although the splendor of the music was almost too much, the players began yet once more, this time in rich harmony, finally ending with a flourish, so thrilling that when the music stopped, it seemed for a moment as though the world had to stop along with it.”
Now, that’s some fine writing. And the plot and characters are just as good as the writing. Just quit reading my pedestrian attempts to describe the Penderwicks books, and go read one, preferably starting with the first book in the series and then proceeding in order through the three books Ms. Birdsall has so far gifted us with. By the time you finish those, maybe there will be a fourth. I certainly hope we don’t have long to wait for another installment. (On her website, Jeanne Birdsall says it takes her three years to write a Penderwicks book and that there will be five books in all.)
Book 3: The Penderwicks at Point Mouette Reviewed by Amy at Hope Is the Word.