A look at THE PENDERWICKS by Jeanne Birdsall

Meet the Penderwicks, four different sisters with one special bond. There’s responsible, practical Rosalind; stubborn, feisty Skye; dreamy, artistic Jane; and shy little sister Batty, who won't go anywhere without her butterfly wings. 

When the girls and their doting father head off for their summer holiday, they're in for a surprise.  Instead of the tumbledown cottage they expected, they find themselves on a beautiful estate called Arundel. Soon the girls are busy discovering the summertime magic of Arundel's sprawling gardens, treasure-filled attic, tame rabbits, and the cook who makes the best gingerbread in Massachusetts. But the most wonderful discovery of all is Jeffrey Tifton, son of Arundel's owner, who quickly proves to be the perfect companion for their adventures.

The icy-hearted Mrs. Tifton is not as pleased with the Penderwicks as Jeffrey is, though, and warns the new friends to stay out of trouble. Which, of course, they will—won’t they?

If your favorite childhood reads were Little Women and Anne of Green Gables, if you loved the stories of E. Nesbit, and if you're in the mood for awesome writing with a classic feel, then this is the book for you.

For a long time after that summer, the four Penderwick sisters still talked of Arundel. Fate drove us there, Jane would say. No, it was the greedy landlord who sold our vacation house on Cape Cod, someone else would say, probably Skye.
Who knew which was right? But it was true that the beach house they usually rented had been sold at the last minute, and the Penderwicks were suddenly without summer plans. Mr. Penderwick called everywhere, but Cape Cod was booked solid, and his daughters were starting to think they would be spending their whole vacation at home in Cameron, Massachusetts. Not that they didn't love Cameron, but what is summer without a trip to somewhere special? Then, out of the blue, Mr. Penderwick heard through a friend of a friend about a cottage in the Berkshire Mountains. It had plenty of bedrooms and a big fenced-in pen for a dog--perfect for big, black, clumsy, lovable Hound Penderwick--and it was available to be rented for three weeks in August. Mr. Penderwick snatched it up, sight unseen.
He didn't know what he was getting us into, Batty would say. Rosalind always said, It's too bad Mommy never saw Arundel--she would have loved the gardens. And Jane would say, There are much better gardens in heaven. And Mommy will never have to bump into Mrs. Tifton in heaven, Skye added to make her sisters laugh. And laugh they would, and the talk would move on to other things, until the next time someone remembered Arundel.
~excerpt from The Penderwicks
More than  anything this book reminded me of Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott, one of my favorites by far. It has the same feeling of adventure, the same mix of different personalities and age ranges, and in both books, the lessons the kids learn the most are the ones they teach each other.

I will say that this book is often shelved in the children's section of the bookstore and not in the YA section, but that really only highlights the benefits of going to your local indie bookstore.

Yay indies!!!

The people at my local store have actually read most of their books, including the kids and YA sections. And when shopping for an in-between age like thirteen, it helps to have a seller who knows where to find what you're looking for.

(Also,  I came across a blog post by an agent I follow, talking about what editors are looking for right now. And right on the top of the list for middle grade was another book like The Penderwicks. So dark fiction isn't all that publishers want.) 

How about you? What is your favorite classic children's book?

(Want to win this book? Go here to enter my Thank-You Contest of Amazingness!)

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Fabric art in the header by Carol Riggs.