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The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy

The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy

4.6 216
by Jeanne Birdsall

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This series of modern classics about the charming Penderwick family from National Book Award winner and New York Times bestseller Jeanne Birdsall is perfect for fans of Noel Streatfeild and Edward Eager. Over one million copies sold, now with a bright new look!

This summer the Penderwick sisters have a wonderful surprise: a holiday on the


This series of modern classics about the charming Penderwick family from National Book Award winner and New York Times bestseller Jeanne Birdsall is perfect for fans of Noel Streatfeild and Edward Eager. Over one million copies sold, now with a bright new look!

This summer the Penderwick sisters have a wonderful surprise: a holiday on the grounds of a beautiful estate called Arundel. Soon they are busy discovering the summertime magic of Arundel’s sprawling gardens, treasure-filled attic, tame rabbits, and the cook who makes the best gingerbread in Massachusetts. But the best discovery of all is Jeffrey Tifton, son of Arundel’s owner, who quickly proves to be the perfect companion for their adventures.

The icy-hearted Mrs. Tifton is not as pleased with the Penderwicks as Jeffrey is, though, and warns the new friends to stay out of trouble. Which, of course, they will—won’t they? One thing’s for sure: it will be a summer the Penderwicks will never forget.

Deliciously nostalgic and quaintly witty, this is a story as breezy and carefree as a summer day.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Problems are solved and lessons learned in this wonderful, humorous book that features characters whom readers will immediately love, as well as a superb writing style. Bring on more of the Penderwicks!” --School and Library Journal, starred

From the Hardcover edition.

Jeanne Birdsall's 2005 National Book Award-winning debut novel possesses a timelessness that many writers seek but few achieve. The eventful summer of the four motherless Penderwick girls (ages 12, 11, 10, and 4) is spent in Arundel, a sprawling estate in the Berkshires. During their vacation, each of the youthful Penderwicks learns a relatively painless life lesson as the reader saunters with them, hoping the experience will never end.
Publishers Weekly
Ah, summertime and the living is easy-even if it's off to a rough start-in this sprightly audio edition of Birdsall's debut novel, which won the National Book Award. The Penderwick family, consisting of four daughters, their widower dad and family pet Hound, are at a loss when the cottage they routinely rent on Cape Cod each summer is sold. They luck into a new situation, however, staying at a cottage on the grounds of a mansion in the Berkshires, and their adventurous holiday provides the plot here. Mrs. Tifton, owner of the manse is rather chilly to the Penderwick clan, but her son Jeffrey proves to be an ideal playmate. Listeners fond of gentle stories of closely-knit families and innocent fun will flock to this recording. Denaker is perfect in the role of kindly narrator, though she's less so in the sometimes grating voices of little sister Batty and Latin-spouting Mr. Penderwick. Nonetheless, her performance captures the appealing, timeless nature of the tale. Ages 8-12. (Jan.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature - Sunday Ford
The Penderwick sisters are in for a surprise as they find themselves spending their summer vacation on the beautiful Arundel estate. Mr. Penderwick, their father, is a widowed botany professor who allows his daughters to run free on the grounds but who is always there when they find themselves in a bind. Rosalind, twelve, looks after her younger sisters since the loss of their mother. Skye, eleven, is always getting into mischief. Jane, ten, has a wild imagination and is working on her new, exciting novel. Batty, four, always adorned with butterfly wings, is a shy, loving child whom the family dog Hound watches over. After their not-so-pleasant first encounter, Jeffery, the son of the Arundel owner, and the four Penderwicks, become close friends. However, because of the girls' adventurous nature, Jeffery's mother Mrs. Tifton dislikes the Penderwicks. The children find themselves wrapped up in a new adventure every day. With Batty's desire to pet the horsy—which turns out to be a wild bull—Mrs. Tifton's beautiful gardens, an attic full of treasures, and two wonderful rabbits, the children are always up to something. This humorous book, full of fun and adventure with characters that the reader will immediately love, is superbly written and is sure to become a favorite. In her first novel, Jeanne Birdsall captures the old-fashioned charm, humor, and adventure that so many long to be a part of.
Children's Literature
The four Penderwick sisters with Hound—and father—descend on rural Massachusetts to enjoy their vacation in a little cottage attached to the grand Arundel estate. Aged four to twelve, their free spirits soon turn the establishment upside down. Bulls attack, pet rabbits run wild, raucous soccer games threaten the formal gardens of their difficult landlady, Mrs. Tifton. More importantly, Mrs. Tifton's son is liberated from the fate worse than death of being banished to a military academy. And it all happens in three weeks. Jeanne Birdsall has recreated the perfect summer read from her childhood. The result is a happy combination of The Five Little Peppers and The Happy Hollisters, with perhaps a touch of Pollyanna. It is definitely a throwback to the 1950s era of summers actually puttered away out of doors or with books. TV? Video games? Forget it. If it were not for a passing mention of a computer, the illusion would be complete. Birdsall's "Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy" should delight younger readers while reintroducing them to a gentler genre gone but not forgotten. 2005, Alfred A. Knopf, Ages 8 to 12.
—Kathleen Karr
School Library Journal
Gr 4-6-This enjoyable tale of four sisters, a new friend, and his snooty mother is rollicking fun. The girls' father is a gentle, widowed botany professor who gives his daughters free reign but is always there to support or comfort them. Rosalind, 12, has become the mother figure. Skye, 11, is fierce and hot-tempered. Jane, 10, is a budding writer of mysteries who has the disconcerting habit of narrating aloud whatever is occurring around her. Batty, four, is an endearingly shy, loving child who always wears butterfly wings. The family dog, Hound, is her protector. The tale begins as the Penderwicks embark on a summer holiday in the Berkshire Mountains, at a cottage on the grounds of a posh mansion owned by the terribly snobbish Mrs. Tifton. Her son, Jeffrey, is a brilliant pianist, but her heart is set on him attending a military academy like her beloved father. The action involves Rosalind's unrequited love for the 18-year-old gardener, Skye's enmity and then friendship with Jeffrey, Jane's improvement in her melodramatic writing style, and Batty's encounter with an angry bull whom she rather hopefully calls "nice horsie." Problems are solved and lessons learned in this wonderful, humorous book that features characters whom readers will immediately love, as well as a superb writing style. Bring on more of the Penderwicks!-B. Allison Gray, John Jermain Library, Sag Harbor, NY Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Echoes of Alcott contribute to the intimate charm of this story of "summer and magic and adventure." Not since the Marches have readers met more engaging girls than the Penderwicks: Rosalind, 12, pretty and practical; Skye, 11, smart and blue-eyed; Jane, ten, aspiring author, whose alter ego, Sabrina Starr, is fearless and clever; and butterfly wing-wearing Batty, four. Dear Father is a botanist, fond of spouting witticisms in Latin; Mommy is in heaven. This year, vacation will be spent at the cream-colored cottage at Arundel, estate of snooty Mrs. Tifton, whose house is "like a museum, only without armed guards." Unless she has a change of heart, Jeffrey, her gentle, music-loving only child, is doomed to be sent to Pencey Military Academy, "Where Boys Become Men and Men Become Soldiers." Despite a few mishaps, the children become fast friends and partners in the sorts of lively plots and pastoral pastimes we don't read much about these days. Their adventures and near-disasters, innocent crushes, escaped animals, owning-up and growing up (and yes, changes of heart) are satisfying and not-too-sweet. (Fiction. 8-12)

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Penderwicks Series , #1
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.19(w) x 7.63(h) x 0.66(d)
800L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

A Boy at the Window
For a long time after that summer, the four Penderwick sisters still talked of Arundel. Fate drove us there, Jane would say. No, it was the greedy landlord who sold our vacation house on Cape Cod, someone else would say, probably Skye.
Who knew which was right? But it was true that the beach house they usually rented had been sold at the last minute, and the Penderwicks were suddenly without summer plans. Mr. Penderwick called everywhere, but Cape Cod was booked solid, and his daughters were starting to think they would be spending their whole vacation at home in Cameron, Massachusetts. Not that they didn't love Cameron, but what is summer without a trip to somewhere special? Then, out of the blue, Mr. Penderwick heard through a friend of a friend about a cottage in the Berkshire Mountains. It had plenty of bedrooms and a big fenced-in pen for a dog--perfect for big, black, clumsy, lovable Hound Penderwick--and it was available to be rented for three weeks in August. Mr. Penderwick snatched it up, sight unseen.
He didn't know what he was getting us into, Batty would say. Rosalind always said, It's too bad Mommy never saw Arundel--she would have loved the gardens. And Jane would say, There are much better gardens in heaven. And Mommy will never have to bump into Mrs. Tifton in heaven, Skye added to make her sisters laugh. And laugh they would, and the talk would move on to other things, until the next time someone remembered Arundel.
But all that is in the future. When our story begins, Batty is still only four years old. Rosalind is twelve, Skye eleven, and Jane ten. They're in their car with Mr. Penderwick and Hound. The family is on the way to Arundel and, unfortunately, they're lost.
"It's Batty's fault," said Skye.
"It is not," said Batty.
"Of course it is," said Skye. "We wouldn't be lost if Hound hadn't eaten the map, and Hound wouldn't have eaten the map if you hadn't hidden your sandwich in it."
"Maybe it's fate that Hound ate the map. Maybe we'll discover something wonderful while we're lost," said Jane.
"We'll discover that when I'm in the backseat for too long with my younger sisters, I go insane and murder them," said Skye.
"Steady, troops," said Mr. Penderwick. "Rosalind, how about a game?"
"Let's do I Went to the Zoo and I Saw," said Rosalind. "I went to the zoo and I saw an anteater. Jane?"
"I went to the zoo and I saw an anteater and a buffalo," said Jane.
Batty was between Jane and Skye, so it was her turn next. "I went to the zoo and I saw an anteater, a buffalo, and a cangaroo."
"Kangaroo starts with a k, not a c," said Skye.
"It does not. It starts with a c, like cat," said Batty.
"Just take your turn, Skye," said Rosalind.
"There's no point in playing if we don't do it right."
Rosalind, who was sitting in the front seat with Mr. Penderwick, turned around and gave Skye her oldest-sister glare. It wouldn't do much, Rosalind knew. After all, Skye was only one year younger than she was. But it might quiet her long enough for Rosalind to concentrate on where they were going. They really were badly lost. This trip should have taken an hour and a half, and already they'd been on the road for three. Rosalind looked over at her father in the driver's seat. His glasses were slipping down his nose and he was humming his favorite Beethoven symphony, the one about spring. Rosalind knew this meant he was thinking about plants--he was a professor of botany--instead of about his driving.
"Daddy," she said, "what do you remember about the map?"
"We're supposed to go past a little town called Framley, then make a few turns and look for number eleven Stafford Street."
"Didn't we see Framley a while ago? And look," she said, pointing out the window. "We've been past those cows before."
"Good eyes, Rosy," he said. "But weren't we going in the other direction last time? Maybe this way will do the trick."
"No, because all we saw along here were more cow fields, remember?"
"Oh, yes." Mr. Penderwick stopped the car, turned it around, and went back the other way.
"We need to find someone who can give us directions," said Rosalind.
"We need to find a helicopter that can airlift us out of here," said Skye. "And keep your stupid wings to yourself!" She was talking to Batty, who, as always, was wearing her beloved orange-and-black butterfly wings.
"They're not stupid," said Batty.
"Woof," said Hound from his place among the boxes and suitcases in the very back of the car. He took Batty's side in every discussion.
"Lost and weary, the brave explorers and their faithful beast argued among themselves. Only Sabrina Starr remained calm," said Jane. Sabrina Starr was the heroine of books that Jane wrote. She rescued things. In the first book, it was a cricket. Then came Sabrina Starr Rescues a Baby Sparrow, Sabrina Starr Rescues a Turtle, and, most recently, Sabrina Starr Rescues a Groundhog. Rosalind knew that Jane was looking for ideas on what Sabrina should rescue next. Skye had suggested a man-eating crocodile, who would devour the heroine and put an end to the series, but the rest of the family had shouted her down. They enjoyed Jane's books.
There was a loud oomph in the backseat. Rosalind glanced around to make sure violence hadn't broken out, but it was only Batty struggling with her car seat--she was trying to twist herself backward to see Hound. Jane was jotting in her favorite blue notebook. So they were both all right. But Skye was blowing out her cheeks and imitating a fish, which meant she was even more bored than Rosalind had feared. They'd better find this cottage soon.
Then Rosalind spotted the truck pulled over by the side of the road. "Stop, Daddy! Maybe we can get directions."
Mr. Penderwick pulled over and Rosalind got out of the car. She now saw that the truck had TOMATOES painted in large letters on each of its doors. Next to the truck was a wooden table piled high with fat red tomatoes and, behind the table, an old man wearing worn blue jeans and a green shirt with Harry's Tomatoes embroidered across the pocket.
"Tomatoes?" he asked.
"Ask if they're magic tomatoes," Rosalind heard. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Skye hauling Jane back in through the car window.
"My younger sisters," said Rosalind apologetically to the old man.
"Had six of 'em myself."
Rosalind tried to imagine having six younger sisters, but she kept coming up with each of her sisters turned into twins. She shuddered and said, "Your tomatoes look delicious, but what I really need is directions. We're looking for number eleven Stafford Street."
"I don't know about any Arundel. We're supposed to be renting a cottage at that address."
"That's Arundel, Mrs. Tifton's place. Beautiful woman. Snooty as all get-out, too."
"Oh, dear."
"You'll be fine. There are a couple of nice surprises over there. You're going to have to keep that blond one under control, though," he said, nodding toward the car, where Skye and Jane were now leaning out of the window together, listening. Muffled complaints could be heard from Batty, who was being squashed.
"Why me?" called Skye.
The man winked at Rosalind. "I can always spot the troublemakers. I was one myself. Now, tell your dad to go down this road a little ways, take the first left, then a quick right, and look for number eleven."
"Thank you," said Rosalind, and turned to go.

From the Hardcover edition.

Meet the Author

When JEANNE BIRDSALL was young, she promised herself she'd be a writer someday--so she could write books for children to read and enjoy, just as she did at her local library. She is now the author of the Penderwicks series: The Penderwicks, The Penderwicks on Gardam Street, and The Penderwicks at Point Mouette. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband. 

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The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 216 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Penderwicks was an amazing book. When I first read the long title, I thought, how in the world with all that fit together to make an interesting story. I really enjoyed the sisters and their 'love' interests. Rosalin and Cagney planning ways to meet each other, Jeffrey and Skye or Jane just playing together and having fun. Mrs Tifton, Jeffrey's mother, was a huge snob just because the girls were not as rich as herself. The adventures these characters find themselves in truely makes you feel as if you are a character in the background participating. The soryline is certainly one that keeps you trying to figure out what could possibly happen next.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Alot of stories have terrible tragedy, but this was a wonderful break from stories of sadness. It is pure playfullness.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is one of my all-time favorites! I loved the plot, with its unexpected twists and turns. It reminded me a lot of a modern Little Women, and it was such a pleasant book. I loved the way the characters were developed, Rosalynd with her motherly attitude and her love of cooking, Skye with her fiery temper and a tomboy, Jane with her imagination and love of writing stories, and Batty with her playfulness and cute butterfly wings. I liked their little adventures, like when they were being chased by the bull, burning brownies, spying on Mrs. Tifton and Dexter, and trying to catch the rabbits. After reading the book, it just gives you a cozy, familiar feeling. I thought it was very realistic, and it wasn't a story that was too perfect, like things went wrong, and then everything is alright again. Awesome book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is a great story for children ages 9-12. It was one of my favorites as a kid and is very family friendly. I would highly recomend this book. I loved this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is very absorbing with each character having a different point of view, and suspension at every page turn. The Penderwick family currently consists of 5 people. The dad,, mr. Penderwick who loves plants, Rosalind the oldest and most sensible, Skye, an adventurous girl with a toungue that should be bit more often, Jane, a writer who thinks outside the box, and Batty, the youngest who wont go anywhere without her beloved black and orange butterfly wings. Their mother passed away of cancer 2 weeks after Batty was born. I reccomend this book to anyone who loves a book with adventure, humor, and suspense, all stirred up in one fabulous book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is my all time favorite book and recommend this to everyone. Young and old will love it, you get to know and love he four penderwick sisters. And to all the jeanne birdsall fans out there: jeanne is making 2 more books 4 the series, one of which is coming out in 2014! MusicLover345
Paul Merkling More than 1 year ago
The Penderwicks is a really good book! It is filled with adventure. The Penderwicks is never boring. Everybody should read it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book will make you laugh, over the sisters and their adventures and how much you can relate to them, whether one is like you or someone you know. This is a great book for kids and adults alike. It was very enjoyable!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The penderwicks is awesome. Just finished the 1st book and loved it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a awesome book sooooooogoood
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this series and is probably one of the books i recomend to people most. The series ccontains very valuble lessons about friendship, and sisterhood. I would reccomend this book/series to fourth and fifth graders! BEST BOOK EVER!!!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a awesome book!!!!!!!!!! You should defenitly read it!!!!!! I loved it!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was an awesome read! I really loved this book! It was so well written that i read it 4 hours on end. When Jeanne Birdsall wrote this book she really knew what she was doing and she knows how 2 make people laugh! I totally recomend this book 2 u. If u r looking 4 a book 2 read then im saying this is the book 4 u 2 read.remember what i said... its really well written!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a great book. One thst the whole family will enjoy. The other three are greatvas well and I'm really excited about the fourth.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
a book kids are sure to love!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In this well written book there are 4 girls and a dad and there vaction. Oops! I can't forget the dog, hound, who is constantly chewing things! Well, out of the four girls, Rosalind is the oldest and likes to bake and care for her youngest sister Batty. Skye is next and is adventourois and definetly a tomboy. She is my favorite character. Third, we have Jane. She absoultly loves writing, but is very messy. And last but not least of the sisters, we have batty. She is also my favorite character. She likes to expore and play with hound. And has a good imaganation. As we start the book, the penderwicks are in the car, driving to a cottage to stay the summer. They have never been there before
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book & so did most of the girls I know.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book, it deserves the Newberry award! I hope it doesn't end here! This novel is a great tale that I can relate 2! :D
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is very well writen and is a little sad but most of the time its upbeat and plesent to read. Its so good you will never want to stop reading at least i couldnt stop reading! READ THIS BOOK!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really inspiring
ficfanKM More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book because it was full of adventure. It was a really fun book. I might read it again and again and again. I hope all the readers will like this book too!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a book about four girls who spent a few weeks in the summer at this place called the Arundel where Skye, one of the sisters, finds a boy named Jeffrey. And soon all the sisters become friends with him, but his mother doesn't like the girls. This book was very good!
momasaurus More than 1 year ago
My son and I read this for battle of the books last year. We enjoyed it so much we have given it twice as gifts. We are waiting to see what else this author does.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I expected this book to be a time pass but instead I couldn't put it down. The Penderwicks is a great book and Jeanne Birdsall does a stunning job portraying the summer tale of the Penderwick sisters. The characters are constructed very adequately from each of the Penderwick sisters (Rosalind, Skye, Jane, and Batty) to there neighbor and friend, Jeffrey. I really enjoyed this book and recommend it to everyone!