Jeanne Birdsall has a talent, let me just say that right away. From the moment she introduced the four Penderwick sisters, Rosalind, Skye, Jane, and Batty, I was completely hooked...and I'm 27 years old. We start off with the girls, along with their widowed father and dog, Hound, arriving at Arundel Estate, where they will be spending their summer vacation.
What happens is a whole lot of nothing, yet so much. The girls meet Jeffrey, the son of Arundel's snooty owner, and become instant friends, almost get taken out by a bull, capture escaped rabbits, play a lot of archery, go to a fancy party, and most of all...take care of each other. Sibling togetherness is at the forefront of the story, and though it's not always the most believable (no sisters get along that well in real life right?), it is simply enchanting.
Imagination is another key point in this first book. The girls are spending their summer without a television set or internet or video games. They write stories, they play games, spend a lot of their time outside, and make stuff up. What has happened to those simple practices in this world? I would love for parents to read this with their kids and be inspired to spend some time doing "nothing" together. Build a fort out of blankets and chairs, have a picnic on your living room floor, go play in a creek and get dirty.
In The Penderwicks on Gardam Street, the girls are back at home and on a mission: prevent their father from falling in love again. Before their mother died, she made him promise to try three dates before giving up on finding a new wife and mother for the girls, so the sisters are set on sabotaging his dating life, because frankly, the girls are happy with their lives without another woman in it!
What ensues is hysterical and the end result is not at all what Rosalind, Skye, Jane, and Batty expect, but wonderful all the same. I'm itching for book 3 (if there is going to be a book 3), just so I can read more about these lovely and silly girls.
A note on the reader, Susan Denaker, is FABULOUS. One of the best readers I've ever listened to in my history of audiobook listening. She does the most perfect voice for each girl, especially little Batty. I loved every scene Batty was in, for her voice and the brilliant things Birdsall had her say. That girl will be my daughter some day.
I'm just smitten with both of these books and cannot say enough good things about them. Though perfect for a family read aloud, you should get this for any young niece or nephew that you have, granddaughter, grandson, etc. I know I'm a bit behind on picking them up, but if any more of you out there have yet to read these books, you must.
Overall rating: 5 out of 5
The Penderwicks/The Penderwicks on Gardam Street
Jeanne Birdsall, read by Susan Denaker
January 2006/April 2008
Copies of both borrowed from my local library
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