This sequel to Birdsall's National Book Award winner, The Penderwicks, has even more charm than the original. The prologue hits the only maudlin note, flashing back to Mrs. Penderwick on her deathbed as she instructs her husband's sister, Claire, to make sure he finds love again after sufficient mourning. The Penderwick sistersRosalind, Jane, Skye and Battylearn of this valediction four years later when Aunt Claire begins arranging blind dates. An emergency MOPS (Meeting of Penderwick Sisters) hatches the Save Daddy plan, in which the girls orchestrate dates so dreadful their father will see widowed life is best. Neighbors on Gardam Street include football-playing brothers Nick and Tommy (the latter plays Tracy to Rosalind's Hepburn), and two newcomers: a widowed professor and her toddler baby. Middle sisters Jane and Skye, who share a room but nothing else, steal the show by swapping homework assignments with hilariously catastrophic results. It's sheer pleasure to spend time with these exquisitely drawn characters, girls so real that readers will feel the wind through their hair as they power down the soccer field. Ages 812. (Apr.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Children's Literature - Keri Collins Lewis
School has begun and the Penderwicks' summer adventures at Arundel are dramatic yet full of fond memories. Reliable Rosalind is settling into seventh grade and proudly shoulders a new responsibility: supervising her sisters after school without a babysitter. Life in the house on Gardam Street seems reassuringly routine: Jane writes her Sabrina Starr books, Skye continues to love all things orderly such as math and science, and Hound keeps Batty company on her many exploits. Then Aunt Claire comes to visit, and brings with her a letter written by Mrs. Penderwick before she died of cancer. In it she encourages Mr. Penderwick to find someone new to love so he will not be lonely, and Aunt Claire has already arranged the first blind date. Suddenly, the girls are having a MOPSMeeting of Penderwick Sistersto formulate a plan to save their father from the horrors of dating, and to save themselves from a stepmother. As their well-intentioned strategy becomes more complicated and requires more deception, each of the Penderwick sisters finds herself challenged by personal demons, which provides several engaging sub-plots to the main story. Jane and Skye's homework swap results in triumph and tragedy; Rosalind has mixed emotions about her neighbor Tommy; and Batty becomes friends with Gardam Street's newest residents Iantha, the astrophysicist, and her toddler son Ben. In true Penderwick fashion, one escapade after another finally culminates in happy endings for all. The charming sequel to Jeanne Birdsall's National Book Award-winning novel The Penderwicks, this evenly paced story remains true to the unique characters readers love while bringing each Penderwick new tests andopportunities to grow. While some may find fault with the sweet innocence, predictability, and tidy conclusion of the plot, parents and kids searching for well-written, family-oriented books will be delighted the Penderwicks are back. Reviewer: Keri Collins Lewis
School Library Journal
Gr 4-8- The Penderwick sisters are back. Their Aunt Claire has come for a visit, bringing with her a letter from their late mother that encourages their father to date, and an immediate crisis ensues, as the girls assume that this is the first step on the treacherous road to having a stepmother. After frantic consultation, they implement the "Save Daddy" plan, designed to set him up with perfectly dreadful women so that he will not want to date again. Numerous subplots add to the domestic drama. Skye struggles with her temper on the soccer field. Rosalind and neighbor Tommy experience a frustrated romance. Skye and Jane switch homework assignments, leading to a school performance of Jane's Aztec drama, with everyone thinking that it was penned by Skye. While the solution to the dating dilemma can be seen from the beginning, the sisters are so caught up in their drama that they can't see who's right next door. Laugh-out-loud moments abound and the humor comes naturally from the characters and situations. Especially funny is the scene in which the youngest Penderwick hides in the car hoping to spy on one of her father's dates. Like much of the book itself, this scene resolves itself in a tender moment between father and daughter. This is a book to cherish and to hold close like a warm, cuddly blanket that you draw around yourself to keep out the cold.-Tim Wadham, Maricopa County Library District, Phoenix, AZ Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
This return to the Cameron, Mass., cul-de-sac home of the Penderwicks-romantic seventh-grader Rosalind, temperamental sixth-grader Skye, dramatic fifth-grader Jane, four-year-old Batty, and their widowed college-professor father, Martin, whom readers met in Birdsall's 2005 National Book Award-winning novel-begins with a visit from his sister, the girls' affable Aunt Claire. She has brought a pale blue envelope entrusted to her by their beloved mother years earlier; it contains a deathbed note in which Elizabeth Penderwick encourages her husband to date again. The girls, horrified, formulate a "Save Daddy Plan," but they are, of course, doomed to failure. While observant readers will deduce the denouement on page 13, Batty makes it perfectly plain a little further along: "I say Daddy should date the [sweet, young, widowed, also-an-academic] lady next door, and then I could play with her baby." Out of the mouths of babes . . . . The rest of the story is a pleasant ramble of a read, replete with well-intentioned scheming, adolescent crushes, horrible homework disasters, soccer, secrets, school dances and lots and lots of literary allusion (and yes, a wedding). (Fiction. 8-12)
From the Publisher
Starred Review, School Library Journal, March 2008:
"This is a book to cherish and to hold close like a warm, cuddly blanket that you draw around yourself to keep out the cold."
Starred Review, Booklist, May 1, 2008:
"Just the sort of cozy fare that's missing in today's mean-girl world."
Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, April 28, 2008:
“It's sheer pleasure to spend time with these exquisitely drawn characters, girls so real that readers will feel the wind through their hair as they power down the soccer field.”
Review, San Francisco Chronicle, April 27, 2008:
"Birdsall writes with amazing grace."
Review, Parade, June 22, 2008:
"[A]n old-fashioned (in a good way) read with well-drawn characters, warmth, and humor."
Review, The New York Times Book Review, July 13, 2008:
"Birdsall's second novel . . . offers comforting comedy."
Read an Excerpt
CHAPTER ONE: Rosalind Bakes a Cake
Four years and four months later
Rosalind was happy. Not the kind of passionate, thrilling happy that can quickly turn into disappointment, but the calm happy that comes when life is steadily going along just the way it should. Three weeks earlier she’d started seventh grade at the middle school, which was turning out not to be as overwhelming as rumored, mostly because she and her best friend, Anna, shared all the same classes. And it was late September, and the leaves were on the verge of bursting into wild colors—Rosalind adored autumn. And it was a Friday afternoon, and although school was all right, who doesn’t like weekends better?
On top of all that, Aunt Claire was coming to visit for the weekend. Beloved Aunt Claire, whose only flaw was that she lived two hours away from the Penderwicks’ home in Cameron, Massachusetts. But she tried to make up for it by visiting often, and now she was arriving this evening. Rosalind had so many things to tell her, mostly about the family’s summer vacation, three wonderful weeks at a place called Arundel in the Berkshires. There had been many adventures with a boy named Jeffrey, and for a while Rosalind had thought that she might be in love with another boy—an older one—named Cagney, but that had come to nothing. Now Rosalind was determined to stay away from love and its confusions for many years, but still she wanted to talk it all over with her aunt.
There was lots to get done before Aunt Claire arrived—clean sheets on the bed, clean towels in the bathroom, and Rosalind wanted to bake a cake—but first she had to pick up her little sister Batty at Goldie’s Day Care. She did so every day on the walk home from school, and even that was part of her happiness. For this was the first year her father had given her the responsibility for her sisters after school and until he came home. Before now, there had always been a babysitter, one or another of the beautiful Bosna sisters, who lived down the street from the Penderwicks. And though the Bosnas had been good babysitters as well as beautiful, Rosalind considered herself much too old now—twelve years and eight months—for a babysitter.
The walk from Cameron Middle School to Goldie’s took ten minutes, and Rosalind was on her last minute now. She could see on the corner ahead of her the gray clapboard house, with its wide porch full of toys. And now she could see—she picked up her pace—a small girl alone on the steps. She had dark curls and was wearing a red sweater, and Rosalind ran the last several yards, scolding as she went.
“Batty, you’re supposed to stay inside until I get here,” she said. “You know that’s the rule.”
Batty threw her arms around Rosalind. “It’s okay, because Goldie’s watching me through the window.”
Rosalind looked up, and it was true. Goldie was at the window, waving and smiling. “Even so, I want you to stay inside from now on.”
“All right. But—” Batty held up a finger swathed in Band-Aids. “I just was dying to show you this. I cut myself during crafts.”
Rosalind caught up the finger and kissed it. “Did it hurt terribly?”
“Yes,” said Batty proudly. “I bled all over the clay and the other kids screamed.”
“That sounds exciting.” Rosalind helped Batty into her little blue backpack. “Now let’s go home and get ready for Aunt Claire.”
Most days the two sisters would linger on their walk home from Goldie’s—at the sassafras tree, with leaves shaped like mittens, and at the storm drain that flooded just the right amount when it rained, so you could splash through without getting water in your boots. Then there was the spotted dog who barked furiously but only wanted to be petted, and the cracks in the sidewalk that Batty had to jump over, and the brown house with flower gardens all around, and the telephone poles that sometimes had posters about missing cats and dogs. Batty always studied these carefully, wondering why people didn’t take better care of their pets.
But today, because of Aunt Claire’s visit, they hurried along, stopping only for Batty to move to safety a worm that had unwisely strayed onto the sidewalk, and soon they were turning the corner onto Gardam Street, where they lived. It was a quiet street, with only five houses on each side, and a cul-de-sac at the end. The Penderwick sisters had always lived there, and they knew and loved every inch of it, from one end to the other. Even when Rosalind was in a hurry, like today, she noted with satisfaction the tall maples that marched along the street—one in every front yard—and the rambling houses that were not so young anymore, but still comfortable and well cared for. And there was always someone waving hello. Today it was Mr. Corkhill, mowing his lawn, and Mrs. Geiger, driving by with a car full of groceries—and then Rosalind stopped waving back, for Batty had broken into a run.
“Come on, Rosalind!” cried Batty over her shoulder. “I hear him!”
This, too, was part of their everyday routine. Hound, the Penderwicks’ dog, always knew when Batty was almost home, and set up such a clamor he could be heard all up and down Gardam Street. So now both sisters were running, and in a moment, Rosalind was unlocking their front door, and Hound was throwing himself at Batty as though she’d been away for centuries instead of just the day.
Rosalind dragged Hound back into the house, with Batty dancing alongside in an ecstasy of reunion. Down the hall they all went, through the living room and into the kitchen—where Rosalind opened the back door and shoved the joyful tangle of child and dog into the backyard. She shut the door behind them and leaned against it to catch her breath. Soon Batty would need her afternoon snack, but for now Rosalind had a moment to herself. She could start on the cake, which she’d decided should be a pineapple upside-down one.
Humming happily, she took the family cookbook from its shelf. It had been a wedding gift to her parents, and was full of her mother’s penciled notes. Rosalind knew all the notes by heart, and even had her favorites, like the one next to candied sweet potatoes—An insult to potatoes everywhere. There was no note next to pineapple upside-down cake. Maybe if it was a great success, Rosalind would add her own. She did that sometimes.
From the Hardcover edition.