Vacation Tale

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

Grade: B-

The Penderwicks is, as the subtitle states, a book about 4 sisters, 2 rabbits, and a boy. For their summer vacation, Mr. Penderwick takes the girls to a cottage located on the estate of a mansion. There they meet Cagney, who takes care of the grounds, and his two rabbits, and also the owner of the estate, Mrs. Tifton, and her son, Jeffrey (the Very Interesting Boy, I guess).

After reading the description of this book, I expected it to be an old story, so I was surprised to see that it was published in 2005. It was written in imitation of the classics, but it is a pale imitation. Once again, I fell prey to the hype at the online bookstore. It’s a shame, but any book that’s tolerable gets rated highly. I don’t know if it’s because the reviewers don’t know good from bad or if it’s just because they’re afraid to say anything negative. As I’m sure you already know, I have no fear of pointing out the negative.

There were many things about the story that didn’t work. The father wasn’t just absent-minded, he was largely absent. The family had no center, so it wasn’t one of those warm, comfortable families that you wished you could join. I never got a real feel for the characters or even the ages of the sisters (the oldest and the youngest often did things that seemed wrong for their ages). Either of the two middle sisters (Jane and Skye) could have been eliminated without harming the story. The estate owner was so mean that it actually brought the story down. A fun location might have lifted it back up, but what’s so exciting about vacationing near a mansion?

I had to force myself to finish the book, but because it was somewhat fun at times, I kept it at the B level by giving it a B-.

P.S. One thing I did like about the book is that the author mentioned one of Edward Eager’s books, just as he mentioned the works of E. Nesbit in his books.

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