This week I've been spending time with a really spectacular family: the Penderwicks! The Penderwicks inhabit three novels by Jeanne Birdsall, and they make for really fun, charming reading aimed at school-age children. The lady heroines are four sisters: Rosalind, the oldest and most responsible Penderwick; Skye, the tomboy/scientist/explorer; Jane, the imaginative writer; and Batty, the youngest and most whimsical sister. The four sisters work so well as a pack--they even have periodic MOPS sessions, or Meetings Of Penderwick Sisters--but they all have endearing voices and personalities of their own. Their well-characterized uniqueness turns their relatively average day-to-day life into a joyful adventure from start to finish.
Birdsall won the National Book Award for her first novel in the series, The Penderwicks. From there she has added to the lives of the Penderwick sisters in a Louisa May Alcott way, and the end result is an absolutely sunny series of books. I hope there will be more titles to come, but for now there are just the three:
The Penderwicks - The Penderwick sisters, their father, and their dog named Hound head to their summer vacation at an estate called Arundel. While there, the girls make new friends, have daring and dangerous adventures, and get into a pretty good amount of trouble for young girls.
The Penderwicks on Gardam Street - The Penderwick sisters are back home the autumn after their Arundel vacation, and suddenly their normal school lives feel turned upside down. Their father, under some duress, goes on a few dates, causing the girls to fear for their futures and plot to save the Penderwick unite. Meanwhile, new neighbors make for a bright spot in a season in upheaval.
The Penderwicks at Point Mouette - It's summer vacation again, but this time the Penderwicks are separated. Daddy is one place, Rosalind is spending her vacation with a friend, and the remaining three Penderwicks go with their aunt to Maine. The new relationship dynamics of a three-sister clan cause some amount of chaos, but the girls all develop their distinct personalities along the way.