Book Review: “The Penderwicks on Gardam Street” by Jeanne Birdsall

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The Penderwicks on Gardam Street
by Jeanne Birdsall

In this sequel to The Penderwicks, the four vivacious Penderwick sisters continue their adventures beyond the end of summer vacation, into the next school year. Strange but true: all adventures don’t take place during school holidays!

Take, for example, the Save Daddy Plan. The time has come for the girls’ widowed father to start dating again. Even their late mother agrees; in fact, a letter she left behind proves that it was her idea. Eldest daughter Rosalind, however, fears that dating might lead to a stepmother, and all kinds of awful changes. Their strategy? To set their father up on the most miserable dates imaginable, so none of those changes need to happen. Of course, nobody takes into account such wildcards as the possibility that Daddy may be going on phony dates because he doesn’t like the idea either; or that the young widow next door might be just the kind of addition to the family everyone would like.

Then there are the boys across the street, especially football-mad Tommy, whose feelings for Rosalind are confusing to everybody, most of all himself. And middle sisters Skye and Jane are up to their own brand of trouble, starting when they swap homework assignments and snowballing from there. Batty, the baby of the family, adds a keen edge of chaos as she puts her new red wagon through all its paces, anoints herself detective in the case of the suspicious Bug Man, and tries to teach the toddler next door to say anything besides “Duck.”

You might think that I’ve spoiled the whole book by now, but I really haven’t. The charm of it lies in how the Penderwicks talk with each other, the girls’ hilarious thought processes, and the everyday distractions that keep them from seeing what’s going on right in front of them. It’s a warm, funny, gentle book featuring a loving and lovable family, right down to the incredibly smart dog (who always knows when a “woof” is needed). Laughing with the Penderwicks might be especially good for some teen and preteen girls who need to learn to step back and laugh at themselves sometimes. The charms of the story speak for itself. And a third book in the series, titled The Penderwicks at Point Mouette, is now available.