Summer with the Penderwicks
30 июня 2021 655

The Penderwicks is a five-part book series written by American author Jeanne Birdsall. The books have been translated into many languages and won several prestigious awards. Papmambook's teenage authors share their impressions of the first book in the series, The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy [one of the editions: Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2005. ISBN 9780375831430].

Eva Biryukova, 15

This reveiw was originally written in 2019.

Read in Russian

Have you ever come across a book that feels like summer? Sunny, light, fun, but also moving, with a touch of sadness, like knowing that another summer day is coming to an end. As I turned the pages of Jeanne’s Birdsall’s The Penderwicks, I was sad thinking of how both the story and the summer were inescapably coming to an end.

When “real time” coincides with book time, I feel like the protagonist of the story I’m reading. The Penderwicks are also enjoying their summer. Plans to rent a house by the sea fall through and so the whole family heads to Arundel Hall. It’s an estate they’ve never heard of, but they’re not about to spend all of summer vacation at home. Dad, his four daughters, and Hound set off on vacation almost without incident. That is, if you don’t count their getting lost, because Hound eats the map and throws up all over Jane’s new shoes. On the way we’re introduced to the Penderwick family.

The dad, Mr. Penderwick, is a botany professor. Whenever he sees a new plant, he forgets all his troubles. You could envy his patience, as he tries to resolve any conflict with a Latin phrase. Raising four such different daughters alone is not easy. The girls’ mother died when Batty, the youngest, was still practically a baby. The sisters cherish memories of their Mom, and the oldest, Rosalind, who is twelve, holds on to her photos. This plot line transforms a simple adventure story into a more realistic one, because in life, too, happiness often stands side-by-side with sadness, and death comes along with birth.

Rosalind takes care of her sisters and father as her mother would have. She knows how to make chocolate brownies, always finds the right words, and tries hard to be strong. At night she often looks at pictures of her mother.

Skye is eleven and she looks a lot like her mom. She gets into a lot of scrapes—she’s practically a magnet for trouble.

Jane is ten. She’s a dreamer who writes stories and sees everything that happens to her as a sort of thrilling plot.

Finally, there’s Batty, who’s four. You can easily spot her by the orange-brown fairy wings on her back.

So that’s Mr. Penderwick’s fab four. And then, of course, there’s Hound.

The summer house they're heading to is part of a gorgeous estate with a beautiful garden, fountain, and columned house. The girls meet the “guy in the t-shirt”—Cagney the gardener, then the housekeeper Mrs. Churchill. The owner of the estate is the rich and snotty Mrs. Tifton. The girls learn that she has a son named Jeffrey.

Each of the sisters finds something of her own at Arundel. Rosalind experiences her first love, but then realizes she’s only twelve and a half and Cagney can’t be her boyfriend. But he can still be her friend. Skye cycles through a mix of adventures and predicaments. She discovers a tunnel in the hedge which allows you to crawl into Arundel’s garden and get a better look at the palatial house. That’s how she meets Jeffrey and Mrs. Tifton and blabs about so many things that all of the Penderwicks have to apologize on her behalf. Then they’re invited to Jeffrey’s birthday, sew outfits from the clothes they find in the attic, go up into Jeffrey’s room by rope and learn the real reason Mrs. Tifton wants to send her son to a military academy. Jane gets plenty of literary fodder for her best book yet—Sabrina Starr Rescues a Boy. Batty takes care of the bunnies the gardener introduces her to, gathers daisies and makes daisy chains, and one day runs into a crazy bull. Only later does she realize what a close call it was and how lucky she was to get away. To make sure her dad never learns what happened, she takes the Penderwick oath, sworn on the Penderwick Family Honor. That’s how her rescuer, Jeffrey, becomes an “honorary Penderwick” and the sisters find a true friend.

Once the girls arrive, Jeffrey is no longer the only child on the huge estate and his life is completely changed. Now he has someone he can vent to that will hear him out. Jeffrey dreams of becoming a musician but his mom wants to send him to a military academy. That summer things will finally fall into place.


The Penderwicks know how to be happy and sad, they’re sincere and attentive, caring and kind, they can keep family traditions and love each other as they are. Because, as Mr. Penderwick says, “maxima debetur puellae reverentia,’ meaning “a child should be treated with the utmost respect.”

The new friends are sure to meet again, but they’re sad that summer vacation is ending. The girls will come visit Jeffrey at the Boston school where he’ll be studying music, and he’ll come see them in Cameron.

And I know I’ll see the Penderwicks again, too, because there are more books in the series: The Penderwicks on Gardam Street and The Penderwicks at Point Mouette.

 [There are also two other books in the series that are available in English, The Penderwicks in Spring and The Penderwicks at Last.]

Darya Ponomareva, 12

This reveiw was originally written in 2014.

Read in Russian

I’d like to introduce you to The Penderwicks, a lovely novel by Jeanne Birdsall.

You’ll probably want to know, who or what are the Penderwicks? But even if you managed to guess on your own, I think it would be my duty to tell you more about them. That’s the kind of obnoxious person I am.

Okay, so The Penderwicks is “A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy.” But I’m getting ahead of myself. Penderwick is the last name of the afore-mentioned sisters. There’s Rosalind, who goes by Rosy, two sisters that are a bit younger—Jane, an aspiring writer, and Skye, a born soccer player. Wait, wait, I almost forgot about Batty, who’s the baby of the family, and the family dog, Hound.

The girls’ dad is the older Penderwick of the family, and his daughters think he’s the best father in the world!

It all started one summer… And now I just have to ask you another really important question. You love summer, right? I love it, and I think it’s the most wonderful season of the year. In summer it’s hot, the sun warms you with its bright little rays. You close your eyes and breathe in the smell of fresh-mowed grass and feel that warmth fill you up to the brim. That energy could power a whole neighborhood. You lie down on the soft grass, which tickles you with its green little fingers and rustles ever so gently. The leaves on the trees sway with the light breeze. A blissful smile appears on your lips. You want the moment to last forever. It’s like placing a sweet piece of candy on your tongue and trying to stretch out the pleasure of it as long as you can. Sleep creeps up on you unexpectedly, whispering sweet words in your ear. Like a chocolate bar, you melt in the sun.

Now multiply that feeling by four, add a country home with a porch into the mix, bunnies, dogs, freedom that gives you wings to fly, friendship forever. Try to recall all your most thrilling summer adventures, feel them through with your heart and wait till they fill you up from the tips of your fingers all the way down to your toes. Add that into the mix and drink it up to the very last drop. Then, only then, will you have the feelings you get from reading this amazing book. It’s a sense of having captured summer on the page and genuine love for books, summer, friends, dogs, and bunnies!

I think after reading Jeanne Birdsall’s The Penderwicks you’ll have tons of ideas about how to brighten your summer!

If you’re curious to know how the Penderwick sisters spend their fall break and come up with their “Save Daddy Plan,” you can read about it in Birdsall’s second book, The Penderwicks on Gardam Street. The book made me realize that fall break can be just as exciting as summer vacation. 

P.S. Once you’ve plunged head first into this wonderful world of summer, sun, and happiness, you understand how different books can be. Each rushes to find its bookshelf, its reader, someone who’ll take it in with joy and love it with all her heart. I hope you end up being one of those readers.

Translated from the Russian by Alisa Cherkasova
Book cover image:

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