Reviewed date: 2009 Nov 25
The Penderwicks looks and feels like an old-fashioned book. Even the cover reminds me of an old classic like Five Children and It. That's the effect Jeanne Birdsall is aiming for: the story follows the adventures of four sisters when they are on holiday at an estate called Arundel. The sisters are Rosalind, Skye, Jane, and Batty. They stay in a rented cottage at the edge of the estate, which is owned by the mean Mrs. Tifton who despises little girls--especially adventurous little girls of the Penderwick sort--and cares only about her prize-winning flower garden. They meet the delightful gardener, a young boy named Cagney who delights the sisters with his pet rabbits Yaz and Carla. There is kindly Churchie, Mrs. Tifton's cook and housemaid. The girls become friends with Jeffrey, Mrs. Tifton's son. Jeffrey desperately wishes to study music, but his mother is determined to send him to military school so he can follow in his grandfather's footsteps. The list of characters is rounded out by Mr. Penderwick, the girls' father (their mother is dead), a loving, understanding, and genuinely good father figure; and Mr. Dexter Dupree, Mrs. Tifton's oily-haired suitor who likes the Penderwick girls even less than Mrs. Tifton.
The Penderwicks is a good story, but it will not become a classic like Five Children and It. The plot is too slow and meanders too much. Still, it held the attentions of my girls, ages 11 and 8.