Book review: The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall

This weekend, I participated in my first unofficial readathon with my friend Cate (click here to check out her wonderful blog). We read The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall, the first in a series of four books centring on the adventures of the Penderwick sisters, Rosalind, Skye, Jane, and Batty.

The first book tells the story of the Penderwicks’ summer vacation in the Berkshire Mountains. Originally from Cameron, Massachusetts, the four sisters, their father, and their dog, Hound, take a road trip to their vacation home. Upon their arrival, they discover that what they thought would be a simple, cozy rental cottage is in fact the 3-storey guest cottage on the grounds of Arundel Hall, a mansion on a luxurious estate brimming with trees, flowers, vegetable gardens, statues, and fountains.

The estate owner, Mrs. Tifton, lives in the mansion with her only son, Jeffrey, and their housekeeper, Churchie. She is less than pleased when Jeffrey befriends the Penderwicks and remains firmly unamused by their summertime antics throughout the course of their 3-week stay.

I thoroughly enjoyed everything about this heartwarming story. Published by Yearling (a division of Penguin Random House for children’s books) in 2005, it’s meant for children ages 8-12, but the whimsical and timeless nature of Birdsall’s writing appeals to readers of all ages. It’s been compared to Little Women and I can see why; my sister, two cousins and I all grew up like sisters, and we pretended to be the March sisters during summers at our own family cottage (I was always Jo). The Penderwicks immediately brought back these fond memories (I’d probably be Rosalind or Skye now!), as each sister’s unique personality and their relationships to one another played out against a backdrop of childhood whimsey, curiosity, and adventure. Birdsall has mastered the recipe for a delightfully cozy summer read, and I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

Rating: 4.5/5 ★

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