Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Penderwicks on Gardam Street

Birdsall, Jeanne. 2008. The Penderwicks on Gardam Street. New York: Knopf.

In Jeanne Birdsall’s debut novel, the Penderwicks were spending their summer vacation in the Berkshires. Now they’re back at home in Massachusetts in their home on Gardam Street. This follow up to the National Book Award winner, The Penderwicks, continues the adventures of the Penderwick family- the Latin-spouting botanist, Mr. Penderwick, Rosalind, the responsible oldest sister, Skye, the pretty, practical and athletic one of the bunch, Jane, the dramatic and artistic author of many Sabrina Starr adventures, and Batty, the sweet and sensitive youngest of the clan.

Rosalind calls an emergency MOPS, or Meeting of the Penderwick Sisters. Mr. Penderwick is about to enter the dating pool, on the five year anniversary of his wife’s death from cancer. The girls decide to implement the Save-Daddy Plan and the adventures begin.

Although the plot contains common and modern family issues – a dating dad, cheating in school, lying, a first crush, The Penderwicks on Gardam Street reads like the fiction of bygone days. (think Little Women or Anne of Green Gables). When Skye is responsible for a melee on the soccer field, the official ends the game,

“The Penderwick’s ride home was an unhappy one. ‘The referee told me this league has never had a brawl of that magnitude,’ said Mr. Penderwick after a long, painful silence. “of course, at the time I was pretending to be a casual passerby and not a father at all…..The point is that perhaps the family honor need not be defended so vigorously.’ ‘I think Sky was wonderful,’ said Batty. ‘No, I wasn’t, you nincompoop,’ said Skye. ‘I’m the captain and I wrecked the game. But for the rest of the season I’ll be well behaved if it kills me.’ ‘Try not to take it that far.’ Mr. Penderwick sighed. ‘How I came to be surrounded by such warlike women is beyond me.’”

The story’s conclusion may be a bit too pat, and the surprise ending may stretch credibility (just a bit!), but the Penderwicks are too charming to resist.

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