The Penderwicks in Spring by Jeanne Birdsall

penderwickO how I love the Penderwicks! Jeanne Birdsall has totally tapped in to the perfect feeling of families I loved reading about when I was a kid (and consequently assumed when I had my own family that we would all be just like the families in The Saturdays and Gone-Away Lake and guess what? We’re not.) It’s amazing how perfectly she is writing something that feels completely old-fashioned, but is not. You won’t find a Penderwick child playing Wii, oh no. A Penderwick is exploring the woods, playing imaginative games, being a kind and loving sibling, and talking to animals. I’m afraid that the Penderwicks are basically what I want my kids to be.  Anyway, I had read the previous 3 Penderwick books as they came out and just this past month our family listened to the first book together on audio. We are now in the midst of listening (and reading aloud) the second book (Penderwicks on Gardam Street.) Consequently, it was a bit confusing to be reading about dear Batty being 4 years old and then switching over to what I was reading, in which Batty is now the main character, turning 11, Rosalind is off at college, and Skye and Jane are teenagers. The action is focused mostly on Batty, with a bit of Ben (who has only just been introduced in the chapter we’re on in Gardam Street as a toddler neighbor) and a new baby sister, Lydia. There is also a good bit of focus on Tommy, Nick, and Jeffrey.  Tommy and Nick are the neighbor boys and Nick is off in Afghanistan. In this latest book there are actually some heavy themes going on-Nick’s return from service and how that affects everyone, and even more-Batty’s grieving over the death of beloved Hound.  I admit that Batty’s grief over Hound hit too close to home for me (as we approach the 1 year anniversary of the death of my beloved dog, Pippin) and there were tears aplenty as I read this.
It was solid, touching, had humor, and was a great installment in this family series. I don’t know if my kids will want to treasure and re-read these books, but I feel inclined to buy a boxed set as soon as this new one is in paperback too. Oh-and if I wish that my kids could be like the Penderwicks, then I also wish Paul and I were like the Penderwick parents-calm, unflappable, lovable, and with really cool jobs.

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