For a while now, I have been considering how I was going to write this. First it took a major amount of motivation for me to sit in front of my laptop and then it took some more effort to think about what to write. It has taken me a while to find the right words to express myself in terms of this series. There is so much about it that I want to say and yet I am at a loss for words when I start. So pardon me, if this post is a mess of rambling, I love these books too much to not talk about them, and I hope that with this post someone else decides to give it a shot too.
How The Penderwicks Found Me:
A very long time ago, when little Rendz was in the third grade, she hated reading. Perhaps it was because she not really good at it, or she preferred to spend her time drawing, inventing and dreaming. But school demanded that Rendz read, so she read and she never came to like it. She even tried out The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe! Her favourite movie as a book! Unfortunately, it was the movie-tie-in addition…so she just looked at the pictures.
Rendz clearly had a problem. Her teacher noticed.
Come the end of the school year, Rendz had not read more than 2 chapter books, that which was required of her. Her teacher, Mr. M, was cleaning out a drawer of books he had collected over the years. Many of them were yellowed, a little torn and bent. Being the excellent teacher that Mr. M was, he gave each one of his students a book that he thought they would enjoy.
When he called out to Rendz and she approached his desk, she noticed–and would never forget–the knowing smile on his face. He told her, “I want you to take this, Rendz. I want you to read it this summer and next year, when you see me in the halls, I want you tell me what you think. I have a feeling you will like this.”
Rendz took that book and studied the cover. It was a little yellow, bent in one corner and looked as though someone stabbed at it with a fork in another corner. And it had a big gold circle covering the cover art.
She did not read it that summer. Nor the next. Nor the next. And Mr. M forgot to ask her about it.
Fast forward 4 years…
It’s fall and Rendz is bored out of her mind. There was nothing on T.V. She was in no mood to draw and it was too wet to leave the house. Her mom, promptly told her to pick up a book if she was that bored.
So Rendz went to her shelf and saw nothing of interest. But there was one book, slightly sticking out. It had a white cover with a gold circle covering the art. She picked up The Penderwicks and remembered her conversation with Mr. M all those years ago. While Rendz was a bigger reader now than she was back then, she still wasn’t sure that this book would entertain her.
Still, she opened the book and read.
And fell in love
Fast Forward Another two or three years…
Rendz discovers that The Penderwicks has two published sequels out in the world! She finds them in a bookstore and proceeds to gobble them up at home.
Fast Forward a Week…
Rendz discovers she still has to wait 6 months for the fourth book!
Fast Forward 7 Months…
Rendz is left emotionally charged and utterly elated from reading The Penderwicks in Spring. And is then devastated when she realizes she is going to have to wait 3 years for the final book.
Fast Forward 3 Years…
Rendz has gone through the emotional trials of rereading the first four books to prepare herself for the final instalment.
Fast Forward One Day…
She finished. Rendz sits on her bed. Clutching all five books to her chest. Crying silent tears whilst smiling like a fool.
This was ten years in the making, people. Ten years.
So it took ten years for me to get to where I am today with these books. But the question of how they changed my life does not come with an easy answer. I love this series for so many reasons, and while they might not be totally life altering, it had a heck of an impression on me.
The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall
Okay in my little third grade defense, what kid is going to want to read a book with a title THAT long.
Anyways, this book means everything to me. It has the sisterhood relationships that I experienced with my own two older sisters. It has adventure. It has mischief. It has love. It has loss. It has no magic, but it feels like magic to me! It even has those punches of second hand embarrassment that I’m pretty sure everyone can relate to in some way.
The characters are AMAZING. Each Penderwick sister has a distinct personality. They have their quirks, their flaws and their dreams. Even their dog has a personality which shines through and gives me a chuckle. Rosalind, Skye, Jane and Batty are so different but share a painful past, yet they are one loving, big, funny family. And I cannot forget the honorary Penderwick, Jefferey. Who’s life is completely transformed by his encounter with the Penderwicks.
The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall
The sequel starts off with the most heart-breaking prologue.
I cry and sob for a good ten minutes after I read it. This one really explored their painful past, the sisters’ relationships with their father and the idea of expanding the family.
Mr. Penderwick is literally the greatest. (No offense, Dad) He is so kind, intuitive and down right funny. He is not perfect, but so darn close. My heart. MY HEART.
This one is also chalked full of the Penderwick personalities. Rosalind is a little moody, with reason, but I still adore her. Skye and Jane are probably the best duo of this book. Then Batty and Hound are just…SODARNCUTEIWANTTOGIVETHEMSUCHABIGHUG!!!!
This one makes me tear up from sadness, laughter and just pure joy.
The Penderwicks at Point Mouette by Jeanne Birdsall
This one is still of my fave despite it not featuring Rosalind, the eldest Penderwick. It still is incredibly funny and adventurous. Skye takes a shining position in this book as she is burdened with such heavy responsibilities.
Jefferey goes through another life changing event. When you read it, you might think it to be very unlikely to happen in real life, but this is fiction, people!
I just LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVVVVVVVVVVVVEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE this one. I cry. I laugh. I revel in the magic of this book.
The Penderwicks in Spring by Jeanne Birdsall
This one just makes me sob.
I can’t even write about it without tearing up. I am literally in tears right now. This one really pulls on the heart strings. Just yanks them out. It is so painfully beautiful.
The older three Penderwicks are now well into their teens, so this is Batty’s time to shine. And shine does she. My precious Batty.
Alongside her is Ben, one of the new Penderwick additions and Lydia, the newest of the new.
I don’t know what to say other than that this book is incredibly sad, but so so so uplifting. I make no sense.
The Penderwicks at Last by Jeanne Birdsall
The end of an era. Starring Lydia, with cameos of the older Penderwick sisters. While I missed reading from the perspectives of the original four sisters, I still loved Lydia’s adventure. She was fun and quirky and her journey is definitely one I enjoyed. But the best part of this book was the nostalgia. Going back to book 1’s setting. Seeing all the sisters grown up. Reading about the wedding. I felt like a proud mom and I 10000% teared up!
I AM NOT LYING WHEN I SAY I FELT LIKE A MOM.
And of course this one has its fair share of sad and tender moments, that just rip your heart out and gently patch it back up.
The Short Version:
I absolutely adore these books.
They have just the right amount of humour, sadness, craziness and love that you need in your life. Whether or not you have siblings, I guarantee you can find something to relate to in this book.
These books simply make me happy, and sometimes that’s all I really need.
It has been quite a ten year journey.
Let me know what you think! WHO HAS READ THE PENDERWICKS AND IS WILLING TO TALK ABOUT IT WITH ME? What children’s books do you love to read over and over again? What book makes you simply happy?
Happy, happy reading!