As you may know, The Penderwicks series is a big, big favorite of mine! The sweet, but not precious, story of Rosalind, Jane, Skye and Batty Penderwick is everything a children’s family series should be–decent morals, but not Pollyanna-ish, believeable, true to the day, but not distressingly “gritty.” I’ve loved this family and their story since the get-go. With this addition to the series, the (sob) fifth and final Penderwicks book, I am at a loss–what will I do without a new Penderwicks book every few years? They are like family now.
For a few books now, there have been two “new” Penderwicks–the first four were joined by little step-brother Ben when Mr. Pendewick, long widowed, happily remarries and Ianthe brings her son into the family. After their marriage they have a daughter, Lydia. This book brings the family full-circle, back to the youngest Penderwick and a special dog–just like Batty and Hound in the first book. And what a great dog Hitch is!
Today the first four are grown-ups. Batty is in college, Skye in graduate school, Jane is writing but not published yet and Rosalind is about to marry you-know-who [no spoilers]. And they have come full-circle in another way as well: it’s another summer at Arundel, Jeffrey’s fabulous home–which Jeffrey has made available to the family for the wedding. Instead of a little boy for a friend, this time there’s another little girl just Lydia’s age to add to the fun–Alice, daughter of Cagney the ever-present Arundel manager/handyman. Of course Jeffrey and his nemisis-mother, Mrs. Tifton are back as well.
Everything I love about this series is still here. As an adult, who has read all the other books, I found it a little bit too eager to repeat stories from the first book. But, if I was 11 and had read the first book in first grade I’d probably be glad for those reminders. I loved the fact that the tension in the book was never thriller-level, no one will stay awake with nightmares after a bedtime chapter! But what I loved most was the dangled possibility of a new series with Lydia and Alice and Jack. It was not actually mentioned or really even hinted by the author, but my brain said “oh, this would work,” so I hope I’m right!
The Penderwicks at Last by Jeanne Birdsall
If You Like the Penderwicks
If you and your family enjoy(ed) the Penderwicks series, take a step back to the days of the 1930s-1940s and enjoy another great family series, The Melendy Quartet by Elizabeth Enright.
Or, if you prefer current-day families, check out a British series I absolutely adore (and wish yet again that the autor would write a grown-ups novel of the parents’ marriage!) The Casson Family Story Collection by Hilary McKay. Here’s my review of Inigo’s Star (scroll down to see the review).