Book: The Penderwicks in Spring
Author: Jeanne Birdsall
Age Range: 8-12
It's so lovely to be back visiting with The Penderwicks. In The Penderwicks in Spring, the action moves forward several years, with Batty, at one time the youngest Penderwick, now 10 years old and the primary protagonist. Oldest sister Rosalind is off at college, younger step-brother Ben is in second grade, and the newest Penderwick, Lydia, is two. Beloved dog Hound, alas, has died, and Batty misses him terribly. But she and the rest of the family are muddling along in their delightful, Pendwick way.
I loved Batty as a four year old in the first book. But in The Penderwicks in Spring, she emerges as a full-fledged character, painfully shy, determinedly NOT interested in sports, closer to some of her family members than others, and crazy about music. She struggles with falling behind on writing book reports for school, and with her guilt over (she thinks) not loving Hound enough to keep him alive.
Batty's older siblings are only seen through Batty's viewpoint, but this is sufficient for long-time fans of the series to catch up with their doings. Rosalind brings home a boy from school who Batty immediately dislikes. Jane is Jane, lost in her stories, and largely oblivious to anything else, but surprisingly popular. And Skye is as prickly as ever, making the rest of the family unhappy with her rejection of Jeffrey (still an honorary Penderwick).
I read this book with a smile on my face and, sometimes, a tear in my eye. There's heart and humor throughout, sentimentality without mawkishness. There's a scene in which Ben is desperate to stay up for the arrival home of neighbor, Nick, who has been away as a soldier in the Middle East. And it's brusque Skye who waits up with him, and carries him across the street. It's just ... lovely. I also enjoyed this passage (among many that I flagged):
"Then overnight the temperature zoomed up and water poured off the roofs and into the gutter and downspouts, along the driveways and into the street, where rivulets chuckled into the storm drains. Only the most stubborn snow was left behind, and the soaking rain that came next took care of that, and spring was back for real." (Page 151)
As with the other Penderwicks titles, and as with the classic children's stories like those about the Melendy Family, The Penderwicks in Spring is more episodic than plot-driven. But the theme that pulls the whole book together, like a silver thread, is Batty's emotional development (symbolized by her developing singing voice).
The Penderwicks. They'll make you laugh, they'll make you cry, they'll make you love them Perfect for any time of year, the Penderwicks are especially enjoyable in spring. Highly recommended, and must-read for fans of the series. I understand from Lisa at Read for Keeps that there is a fifth Penderwick book planned for the future, when Lydia is old enough to be a middle grade protagonist. I can't wait!
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (@RandomHouseKids)
Publication Date: March 24, 2015
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
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