Book: The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy
Author: Jeanne Birdsall
The four Penderwick sisters, Rosalind, Skye, Jane, and Batty, with their enormous, galumphing dog, Hound, and their dreamy, permissive dad, are off to have a great summer in a rented cottage. When they arrive, they discover that the cottage is on the grounds of a massive estate, which comes complete with a cute gardener, a really scary owner, and the owner’s bored son, about to be sent off to military school completely against his will. The Penderwicks immediately decide it is their duty to make sure that Jeffrey gets a great summer, and if they can swing it, a way out of that stupid military school.
If anyone can do it, they can.
Much as I love them, the one thing that always grated on my nerves about classic children’s adventure stories (think Nesbit’s The Railway Children, Barrie’s Peter Pan, or Cooper’s Over Sea, Under Stone) was how annoying the girls were. They were always dragged along against their will, fussing that they’d get in trouble, or whipping out the spotlessly clean, perfectly pressed handkerchief and wiping smudges off their resisting brothers’ faces.
Well, no more. While Rosalind is plenty fussy and mothery, that seems to be more because she’s the oldest. The rest of the Penderwick girls (and even sometimes Rosalind) hurl themselves headlong into trouble, and for once, they’re dragging the boy along. The subtitle has it right: while there are problems and conflicts, this entire story seems to take place in a golden, innocent bubble of summer fun.