I’ve been reading the Penderwicks since the very beginning, so naturally I had to read their latest adventures.
The Penderwicks in Spring by Jeanne Birdsall. Read by Susan Denaker. Random House, 2015
It’s been ten years since The Penderwicks first came out, so it’s not surprising that Batty, only four in the first book, has now gotten older. In this book, she’s 11, and the focus of the narrative. Rosalind is at college, Jane and Skye both in high school and filling the house with teenaged boys on the hunt for pretzels. The family also includes stepbrother Ben, aged 7, and new little sister Lydia, aged two, and in a decided princess phase. As the story opens, the Penderwicks are preparing to welcome neighbor (and Ben’s especial hero) Nick Geiger home from war. While Batty is happy about this, she’s having a really rough time of things. Hound has recently died, and though he was quite old, Batty blames herself for his death. She misses Rosalind dreadfully, and even when she does come home, she brings a horribly snobbish boyfriend with her. Old friend Jeffrey’s would-be romantic relationship with Skye is getting in the way of him guiding her passion for music as much as she’d like. Will her dog-walking business (one overweight Dachshund, one crazy shar-pei) and her new-found singing ability be enough to make life feel right again?
This book felt much sadder to me than the other books. Batty is really depressed for most of the book, and things were sad enough that I cried buckets of tears over the book. I really wished that someone had noticed Batty’s guilt over Hound earlier! And also that it wasn’t always left to Nick to be the perceptive one. But even with this, it was delightful to spend time with the Penderwicks. The interactions between people, the distinct personalities and humor are still there. The walks in the woods, the silliness of dogs, the teens hiding behind the shrubbery and finding younger kids setting up battles with mismatched action figures already there, Batty’s “singing sprite” bursting out of her at inopportune moments – these are all pictures that linger in my mind, making this book fit as part of this quintessential modern take on the classic family series.
What are these classic family series I’m thinking of? Here are a few:
All of a Kind Family by Sydney Taylor
Anne of Ingleside and Rainbow Valley by L.M. Montgomery
Half Magic (and sequels) by Edward Eager
The Melendy Quartet by Elizabeth Enright
The Moffat books by Eleanor Estes