Happiness is reading a Penderwicks novel, so you can imagine my delight when this ARC arrived at the store. I was DOUBLY thrilled to discover that this is only the third in a projected five book series! I cannot wait to spend two more whole books with my favourite fictional family (save perhaps the March girls. Or the Weasleys…)
In this third installment, beloved Mr. Penderwick and his new wife Iantha are taking a belated honeymoon in England and Rosalind is getting a well-earned vacation in New Jersey with her best friend Anna, leaving Skye in charge as she is the Oldest Available Penderwick (OAP). This is an honour (and responsibility) Skye does not want, but being a Penderwick, makes no complaints and swears to do her best. Of course things would be much easier if they weren’t going away for two weeks to Point Mouette, where Skye is certain someone (probably Batty) will be carried away by the ocean or get smashed against the rocks and it will be all her fault. Just as she predicted, a number of things do go wrong- including a sprained ankle (Aunt Claire), a bashed nose (Jane), a broken heart (Jane again), and a major revelation that leaves all of their lives forever changed (Jeffrey).
Jeanne Birdsall is a warm, engaging writer and reading this book was not unlike playing hooky and snuggling up in a chair with a big mug of hot chocolate. In other words, it is a delicious and wholly satisfying diversion from the fast-paced world outside. Although I missed Rosalind, Birdsall kept me distracted with the antics of the remaining Penderwicks and friends. Skye’s anxieties about keeping everyone safe and happy in the absence of Rosalind was sweet and believable and added another layer to her character. This, plus Batty’s discovery of her latent musical talent and Jane’s first crush (and resulting heartbreak), was more than enough to keep me engaged. I got a real sense of the maturation of the girls in this book. Birdsall has added just enough depth to keep the stories interesting and emotionally resonant, but skirts anything too intense. For this reason, the Penderwicks books make especially good family read alouds. You can read this book to children as young as 5 or 6, though a 12 (or 28 or 65) year old would find it just as entertaining.
The Penderwicks books are the kind of books I feel you could pick up at any time in your life and be charmed. They are traditional in spirit but contemporary in the details. With Hannah Montana, Bieber fever, and other tween pop culture phenomena innundating kids at a younger age, some of the classics may not go over as well as one would hope. The Penderwicks books, while a treat all on their own, also serve as a nice bridge between trendier, pop culture-driven fiction and its classic counterparts. I love the Penderwicks like I love the March sisters, and it is not hard to imagine future generations gushing over these books as I have (and continue) to love Little Women.
The Penderwicks at Point Mouette will be available in hard cover from Alfred A. Knopf in May, 2011.