The Penderwicks – A Madcap Adventure

Book Review : The Penderwicks
A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy

By Jeanne Birdsall

Spoiler Alert!




A National Book Award winner, this modern classic is perfect for fans of Noel Streatfeild and Edward Eager.

This summer the Penderwick sisters have a wonderful surprise: a holiday on the grounds of a beautiful estate called Arundel. Soon they are busy discovering the summertime magic of Arundel’s sprawling gardens, treasure-filled attic, tame rabbits, and the cook who makes the best gingerbread in Massachusetts. But the best discovery of all is Jeffrey Tifton, son of Arundel’s owner, who quickly proves to be the perfect companion for their adventures.

The icy-hearted Mrs. Tifton is not as pleased with the Penderwicks as Jeffrey is, though, and warns the new friends to stay out of trouble. Which, of course, they will—won’t they? One thing’s for sure: it will be a summer the Penderwicks will never forget.

Deliciously nostalgic and quaintly witty, this is a story as breezy and carefree as a summer day. (Courtesy of

Adult Point of View

I am so fortunate to have a good librarian friend who will introduce me to books that I have missed. The Penderwicks is just such a book; it reads like an old friend that you’ve missed seeing for awhile. The sisters’ antics remind me of my own youth running around in “The Jungle”, creating secret clubs, code names and kicking balls through fields. The small things were our world and where our secrets lay hidden from the adult world.

The setting isn’t firmly set in a particular year. I couldn’t decide if this bothered me, or if I liked the slight ambiguity. We know that the Penderwick family arrives in a car for their family vacation, but there is no mention of TV or even radios. The girls are expected to wear dresses to a party, however, play in pants. There is a pop cultural reference to Cair Paravel, of Narnia written by C.S. Lewis in 1950. Screen shot 2016-07-28 at 1.47.22 PM

The girls are also wearing sneakers.

Screen shot 2016-07-28 at 1.57.05 PM1967-wrangler-jeans-and-sneakers-shoes

The girls also wear T-shirts, more indicative of the 1970’s and have a camouflage hat.
In my mind, I set the book to be somewhere in the early 1970’s from these clues. There were times when I felt like it could have been set earlier and would have also worked.

The Very Important Anacronyms:

MOPS = Meeting Of Penderwick Sisters
MOOPS = Meeting Of Older Penderwick Sisters
OAP = Oldest Available Penderwick

The Sisters:

Rosalind – going into 7th grade, surprised that she is noticing boys and is the primary caregiver to her smallest sister, Batty.
Skye – the second daughter with blonde hair, remembered by the saying “Blue sky, Blue eyes” and  loves order, cleanliness and math.
Jane – an aspiring author, lives through her alter-ego character, Sabrina Starr.
Batty – actually named Elizabeth, after her deceased mother and always wears butterfly wings and holds serious conversations with the dog, Hound.


Her sisters had left her the most perfect bedroom Skye had ever seen. The room was large and white and sparkling clean, with polished wood floors and three windows. And two beds! A whole extra bed without a sister to go along with it! (p. 17)

      “Daddy got sad and said there could only ever be one Elizabeth for him. So Mommy said, ‘Then name her Elizabeth, but call her Batty. I think she has a sense of humor.'”
“And then I smiled.”
“And Mommy said, ‘You see, Martin? She’s smiling. She likes it. Don’t you, Batty?’ And she kissed you and you smiled again.” (p.32-33)

As she later wrote to Anna, it wasn’t like spiders-or lighting bugs-that you want to brush away. It was more like the soft touch of fate’s finger, announcing the arrival of something-or someone-special. (p. 168)

Rosalind walked over and touched the covered buttons on the back, one at a time. Thirteen of them. She knew that by heart, just like she knew by heart what Cagney said when he saw her in it. (p. 194)

“Will each of my daughters be delivered to me, one at a time, as from the briny deep?” (p. 205)

I smiled and laughed through the whole book! The Penderwicks will be loved by girls, unfortunately I don’t think the boys will really enjoy it. And, adults will love it even more than children. The Penderwicks deserve to be a classic!

4 out of 5 stars

4 star

  • the Mother

The Penderwick sisters are the girls who would have loved reading The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis so it is a definite recommendation. The initial scene of Jeffery Tifton hidden away in the house reminds me of my love for The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. An adult reading this book will also love the Flavia de Luce books, the first being The Sweetness At The Bottom Of The Pie by Alan Bradley.



About Tales Untangled

I am a mother of four children and have a passion for reading. I love sharing my treasury of books with my kids. I also do experiments in cooking which includes such things as Indian Tandoori Chicken slow-cooked in a tagine. I write stories and illustrate in ink.
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