June 28, 2017

"For a long time we didn't know what we wanted."


There was something about the shift from spring to summer that made me think of The Penderwicks. I'm sure it's partly the fact that the novel takes place over the course of one exciting summer. But there was something else to it - I was longing for the charm of the story and the feeling of nostalgia that I got when I first read it. It was released in 2005, but I remember thinking that it read like a classic and could easily find a home next to my well-worn (and very loved) copies of books like Anne of Green Gables and Little Women.

It's not historical fiction, though there are moments where I find myself imagining that it's all happening in the past. But Birdsall's lovely writing, the charming characters and the sweet (and funny) plot give it a timeless quality that I just adore. The first book in the series is the story of the four Penderwick sisters and their father, a widower, who spend their summer in a rental cottage on a large Berkshire estate. I loved it the first time around and decided to re-read it recently when I couldn't get the book off my brain.

One of my goals with The Picky Pledge Reading Challenge was to tackle books on my TBR that I had purchased prior to this year. They didn't necessarily have to be older books, but I wanted to feel like I was making a dent in stuff that was already sitting on my shelves. I've done pretty well so far, but I cheated a little bit with the "A Book You Bought Because It's the Next in a Series" prompt. 

In one way, The Penderwicks on Gardam Street has been on my TBR for five years. I finished The Penderwicks back in 2012 and always meant to continue the series. However, I technically just bought a copy of this book for myself last month. That's why I said I kind of cheated with this one. But when I decided to re-read the first book, I figured this prompt was the perfect excuse to dive into the second! I'm glad I did, even though I probably should have read one of the "next in series" books that I've owned for ages.

I finished my re-read of the first book in a day - and loved it even more than I had originally! I started the next book a few days later, and for some reason it took me a week to finish it. This is a Middle Grade novel, so it's technically something that would be pretty easy to finish in a day. I love the writing, but it's definitely accessible and not difficult to get through. The plot is adorable, but it's not too complex. Truthfully, I think I just wanted to savor the reading experience. I didn't want to rush through it and on to the next book.

In The Penderwicks on Gardam Street, the sisters and their father are back at home for the fall. Adventure follows them wherever they go, but this time it's one they all desperately want to avoid: Mr. Penderwick's sister has decided it's time for him to start dating again. The girls come up with the Save Daddy Plan to make sure they don't end up with a stepmother. It's hilarious and heartwarming!

If I had to choose, I think I liked the story in the first book a bit better. There's something magical about the summer and all the mishaps the sisters get into in their little rental cottage. The second book, by contrast, is a bit more serious. There's still a lot of humor and hijinks, but the prospect of Mr. Penderwick dating (and how each sister reacts to it) casts a more serious shadow on the novel. That being said - I loved how it all turned out!

But it's the sisters that brought me into this series and will have me reading it again and again in the future. I'm always drawn to stories about sisters, and these are two of the best sister stories that I've read. The girls have so much depth! I love the different storylines they each have and how they all converge for the main conflict of their father's decision to date (four years after the death of their mother). I find myself smiling and laughing the whole time I'm reading. Take, for example, this conversation between Jane and Skye:
“Jane,” she said, climbing down from the chair. “Remember last year when I built that model wind tower for you and you wrote those poems for me?”
“And you said you'd never switch homework assignments with me again.”
“For good reason. My teacher had a hard time believing I wrote Tra-la the joy of tulips blooming, Ha-ha the thrill of bumblebees zooming. I'm alive and I dance, I'm alive though death is always looming. When I finally convinced her that I had, she asked me if I needed to talk to the school counselor.”
That moment cracked me up! I just find these books so charming. They're a little on the slow side, but they aren't boring at all. While I was reading, I couldn't stop thinking about how much I'd like to listen to these on audio. I bet they're wonderful read aloud! I feel like I haven't talked that much about what happens in the books or exactly why I love them, but the truth is that it's hard for me to explain it. There are so many reasons I could recommend it, but the biggest one is the way I feel when I'm reading them. It's like returning to my childhood and to the books that made me a reader. And what more needs to be said beyond that?
Release Date: April 2008 | Publisher: Random House; Knopf BFYR
Pages: 320 pages | Source & Format: Bought; Hardcover

This was my fifth read for The Picky Pledge Reading Challenge that Alexa and I are doing in 2017! It's the perfect motivation to read books from my TBR and adds an extra dose of accountability, too. In addition to reading and reviewing one challenge book per month, we're answering three questions about each one!

1. How long has this book been on your TBR?
I finished the first book in 2012 and planned to continue the series. So, in that respect, this book has been on my TBR for five years. However, I didn't actually buy the book until last month. 

2. What made you want to keep reading the series? 
I loved the first book because it reminded me so many of my favorite childhood classics, and at the time it was immediately something that I could picture myself reading aloud to future children. There is a timelessness to it that I just love. Thankfully, that feeling continued with the second book!

3. Will you continue reading this series?
Absolutely! I'd planned to read all four back-to-back, but then I got sidetracked. I'm hoping to finish the other two books by the end of the year (and then the fifth and final book whenever it's released). 

2 comments:

  1. I bought a boxed set of the first four relatively recently... I keep meaning to get to it, but now I really think I should at least read the first this summer, to go with the season :)

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  2. I just picked all 4 of the books up at a used book sale a few weeks ago! I'd heard them recommended on Modern Mrs Darcy and hoping my daughter enjoys them someday - after I get a chance to read them! :)

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