The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall

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The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall

Category: Teens
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A heart-warming story about American family life which points up the values of honesty and kindness to others. It's well-written with compelling characters. Highly recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: June 2008
Publisher: David Fickling Books
ISBN: 978-0385613750

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Four years before the beginning of this book the Penderwick sisters lost their mother. She died of cancer soon after the birth of Batty, leaving eight year old Rosalind, and younger sisters Skye and Jane and the baby to be looked after by their father. One thing the girls always looked forward to was the arrival of their Aunt Claire, but this time the visit was not to go smoothly. Elizabeth Penderwick had worried that her husband would be lonely and had written a letter which she asked Claire to deliver in three or four years. She wanted Martin to start dating again. The girls were horrified and their father wasn't much happier.

In my bookcase there's a copy of Louisa M Alcott's Little Women. I've had it for more than fifty years and the print has just about been read from the pages. I loved the gentle stories of family life and I couldn't help but think back to that book as I read The Penderwicks on Gardam Street. It's based on the same set of values – truth, honesty, kindness to others and the strength of family life. That's not to say that everything goes smoothly for the family. Skye has problems controlling her temper on the soccer field and when they have problems with their homework she and Jane not above taking on each other's projects. Well, it seemed only sensible when Jane couldn't tell antibiotics from robotics and Skye couldn't write a play to save her life. Rosalind finds the attractions of a boy from the neighbourhood rather confusing and Batty takes to spying on the new people next door.

It's the thought of their father dating again that really worried the girls though. They couldn't bear the thought of a stereotypical stepmother coming into their home and that was what gave birth to the Save-Daddy Plan. Martin Penderwick had agreed that he would go on a certain number of dates, so the obvious solution was to find enough dreadful women with whom he could have unsatisfactory dates and when that was done all could go back to normal. Plans are never quite straightforward though and even the kind and honest Martin Penderwick is not above a little deceit in the interests of self-preservation.

The writing is superb – sharp, concise and witty. The characters are wonderful. It would be easy when there are four girls in the family to make them very similar, but there was never a point when I was confused – all have very distinct personalities and there's good and, well, not so good in all of them. The Gardam Street neighbourhood is brought vividly to life even though it's a little too unremittingly white middle class for my taste, but that's a minor quibble. In fairness there are very strong female role models and no gender stereotyping – the Penderwick's neighbour is a young widow with a baby son – and a career as an astrophysicist.

The book will be enjoyed by the younger teenage girls and possibly older confident readers – but I have to confess to finding it one of the most heart-warming books that I've read recently. I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

For another warm book we can recommend The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen. We think you might also enjoy Footloose by Kate Cann.

Buy The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall at Amazon.com.


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