We’ve had a week of rain, and I’m loving the excuse to curl up with a good book nightly. Finally back in a reading groove and loving it!
Today I’m sharing my review of The Penderwicks at Last by Jeanne Birdsall. I have looked forward to this book for a while. Although I only discovered this series about a year ago, I have loved these stories and these characters regardless.
**Lots of spoilers heading your way! It’s the finale in a series, so I’m bound to spill a few plot details. I recommend reading the books first then my reviews! 🙂 **
- This book was not quite as good as the others for me. It’s still full of Penderwick goodness with Lydia getting her turn at experiencing the magic of Arundel.
- The big time jump from book 4 to book 5 was harder for me to wrap my mind around than between 3 & 4. Perhaps that’s because I read this two basically back to back. But whatever the reason, I missed Batty’s narrations and felt more distant from her and the other original Penderwicks in this book.
The Penderwicks at Last by Jeanne Birdsall is the final book in the Penderwicks series and brings the entire family back to Arundel. Goodreads summarizes, “Now it’s summertime, and eleven-year-old Lydia is dancing at the bus stop, waiting for big sister Batty to get home from college. This is a very important dance and a very important wait because the two youngest sisters are about to arrive home to find out that the Penderwicks will all be returning to Arundel this summer, the place where it all began. And better still is the occasion: a good old-fashioned, homemade-by-Penderwicks wedding. Bursting with heart and brimming with charm, this is a joyful, hilarious ode to the family we love best. And oh my MOPS–Meeting of Penderwick Siblings–does Jeanne Birdsall’s The Penderwicks at Last crescendo to one perfect Penderwick finale.”
I was a bit disappointed by the big time jump again. And I initially hoped to get inside the heads of more than just Lydia. I missed the childhood voices of the original four Penderwicks. But I like the idea that their childhoods live on in a way through Lydia and her experiences. I can appreciate the focus on Lydia because she is now in the perfect years of childhood that the original sisters started in. Birdsall writes a great middle grade narrator. But I still missed the other girls. It is a rare privilege to see the growth of an entire family and get inside everyone’s head as well.
I loved how magical Arundel continues to be for the Penderwicks, especially Lydia. Her experiences are original and memorable, just like the older siblings. I love that we get to see Cagney again and the similarities between the original book and this finale (like the final moment when Lydia collides with Alice’s brother in Jeffrey’s tunnel). I love Lydia’s fast friendship with Alice (it feels like the Penderwicks first summer with Jeffrey) and their misadventures reading to Blossom the cow, filming Ben’s alien movie, and trying to choreograph the wedding march. And I enjoy the fact that Mrs Tifton decides to like Lydia. It’s too funny! I loved the ghosts in the mansion and Batty saving spiders and Mr Penderwick wondering how everyone grew up so fast. These moments feel real; these stories fit well into the Penderwick canon.
I must admit I was a bit disappointed to see everyone grow up. There’s something almost sad about watching favorite characters change. I had a hard time picturing them all as grown up, especially Jeffrey and Batty. I just think of them as the skinny boy and little girl with butterfly wings. Change is hard, even in books. Also, a few thoughts about Jeffrey who is possibly my favorite character in this series. At first, I was super team Skye and Jeffrey. Honestly, I was rather disappointed that didn’t work out how I wanted (LAURIE AND JO, ANYONE?!) I was mostly really mad at Skye. Haha! But I can appreciate why it didn’t come together even if I still don’t like it. And I have hopes for Jeffrey in the future. He has become a rather remarkably kind, generous person while his mother hasn’t changed a bit through the series.
Ultimately, I think what’s hard about this book is that it tries to meld the adult lives of the original four Penderwicks with the classic childhood of Lydia. The childhood stories are what make the first 4 books so brilliant for me. They feel timeless and relatable. They bring readers back to more simple days when life was innocent and adventurous. This novel was trying to do too much. I think the parts focused on Lydia and her experiences in Arundel are the best in the book. The romance/marriage parts are not as flushed out and come out a bit flat. I didn’t feel completely satisfied with how everything played out. I was also a bit disappointed we didn’t get many details of the actual wedding. But I guess this book wasn’t really about the wedding after all.
Overall, I liked this book. And I’m sad to see the Penderwicks go. I will definitely be reading the first book to my kids one day and hope they will continue in the series. A classic childhood series that I highly recommend!
Have you read the Penderwicks series? Which is your favorite book?