[The Penderwicks]: A Review

Happy weekend y’all! We are still getting rain today and are starting to go a bit stir crazy at our house. Hope y’all have a great weekend!

Today I am reviewing The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall. Published in 2005, this novel is a National Book Award winner. I found out about this book on a recommended list on The Read Aloud Revival. Have you heard of them before? I have recently been hooked on their amazing resources for reading aloud with your kids. Check them out!

This is a charming, lovely novel that is a great read aloud book (hence the recommendation above) and equally fun to read on your own.

Initial Thoughts:

  • Everything about this novel is so darling! The characters, the setting, the adventures are so endearing and fun. Loved the lightness and the sweetness.
  • I also learned this is the first novel in a series about the Penderwick girls–I’d love to read more in this series right away (if my TBR wasn’t constantly growing faster than I can read.) Definitely a series I would like to return to in future!


The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall follows the adventures of the 4 Penderwick sisters one summer at Arundel cottage. Goodreads summarizes, “The Penderwick sisters busily discover the summertime magic of Arundel estate’s sprawling gardens, treasure-filled attic, tame rabbits, and the cook who makes the best gingerbread in Massachusetts. Best of all is Jeffrey Tifton, son of Arundel’s owner, the perfect companion for their adventures. Icy-hearted Mrs. Tifton is less pleased with the Penderwicks than Jeffrey, and warns the new friends to stay out of trouble. Is that any fun? For sure the summer will be unforgettable.

This novel reminds me of Little Women because of it’s storytelling, characters, and overall tone. I’ve heard similar praise from other readers as well. Just like Jo, Meg, Beth, and Amy, the Penderwick sisters are easy to love. The simple anecdotes and family connections were so much like the daily adventures of the March sisters.  I like that this book is a lot shorter than Little Women (only about 250 pages) so my kids can get a taste of that style earlier and gain confidence reading in this genre.

There are so many lovely characters in this novel. I loved the Penderwick sisters; I connected with each of them in some way. Rosalind reminds me so much of preteen me, including her protective nature of her younger sisters and he first secret crush. Skye makes me laugh. I love that she always speaks her mind and defends her family fiercely. Jane’s writing aspirations are so fun and sometimes over the top. I love how she reaches for her dreams and talks in character sometimes. Dear, little Batty is wonderful in her childish innocence and obsession with her butterfly wings. And Jeffrey is everything good that I remember from Laurie in Little Women–kind, in need of a true friend, and a lover of music. I loved reading about his adventures with the Penderwicks. The supporting characters are fun too. Mr Penderwick is a doting father and Churchie is the perfect housekeeper.

“People sometimes make unexpected choices when they’re lonely”

“This is what made a book great, she thought, that you could read it over and over and never get tired of it.”

“Parents almost always want what’s best for their children. They just don’t always know what that is.”

The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy

This novel is so endearing, and the depth of emotion is impressive. The sisters have lost their mother to cancer and that deep loss is felt throughout the novel. Jeffrey and his mother disagree about his future in intense ways. While there are these more intense emotions, they are balanced by beautiful light moments as well. The girls play soccer with Jeffrey and interrupt a garden competition in a hilarious scene. I love when Batty asks for another bedtime story or when Jane starts writing novel scenes in her head. What makes this novel so timeless is the way it approaches both difficult and silly moments so any reader can connect with the characters and their experiences. 

This book is simple. On paper, this is just a story about sisters on a 3 week vacation with their father. But I think it is so much more. It is a story of friendship, of family, of following your dreams. It’s about having fun and finding love and making memories. This novel doesn’t do anything complicated. It doesn’t have a crazy plot twist or a surprise villain. It just tells a beautiful story about a family. And I enjoyed it immensely. A book worth owning and worth reading aloud to my kids one day!

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Have you read The Penderwicks?
What are your favorite read aloud books?

22 thoughts on “[The Penderwicks]: A Review

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  7. I saw this book at the library for years before I finally picked it up. It looked like something I would enjoy, but I’ve been burned before. THEN, I finally read it… Well, I couldn’t get the sequels into my hands fast enough. And I am looking forward to the final (fifth) book in the series.


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  9. I adore The Penderwicks! Have you listened to the audiobook as well? Susan Denaker does a fantastic job of the voices. I love that Birdsall brings together elements of Little Women, The Secret Garden, Emily of New Moon, and other classics, in a book that feels both old fashioned and contemporary at the same time. I’m partial to the second book in the series because there’s a Jane Austen connection. Really looking forward to reading the fifth book, which is coming out in the spring.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad to hear that you love the Penderwicks too, Sarah! I love all the connections as well to classic literature. Oh I’m excited for a Jane Austen connection! I haven’t listened to the audiobook but I will have to add that–I appreciate a well read audiobook. Thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think you’ll probably enjoy the audiobook and also The Penderwicks on Gardam Street. The line that sticks with me from the second book is from Jane Penderwick: “the mystifying Marianne who hated flannel will long linger in my memory….”

        Liked by 1 person

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