RAVE REVIEWS by Jean E. Eustance July 2019
I’ve just finished The Penderwicks on Gardam Street, and I feel like I’m a kid again, and I’ve found a book that feels like the ones I used to read. This is a book that will stay with you for years and years. Get this book from the Children’s Department of the Pine Bush Area Public Library. It’s written for middle readers, grades four and up. It’s one of those books you, the grownup, will wish had been available when you were a child.
Jeanne Birdsall has written a marvelous book about a family of one widower and his four daughters, and the problems when his bossy older sister says that he must start dating again. His daughters don’t like the idea. It’s also about how the daughters support each other and love their Dad.
They come up with a Save-Daddy Plan. Aunt Claire says that the girls’ late mother had left their Dad a letter saying that it isn’t good to be alone too long. Four years after Mrs. Penderwick’s death, Aunt Claire introduces Dad to the first blind date and the whole thing is a disaster. She says that Dr. Penderwick should go on at least four dates and then if it’s just too much, he can stop. The eldest daughter, Rosalind, figures that if they can find three more truly awful dates for Daddy, the whole thing will be over and they will be left in peace.
Then Dr. Penderwick says that he is dating a woman named Marianne whom he met in a bookshop. No one else has met this woman, and when Aunt Claire tries to steer him towards another blind date, off he goes again with Marianne, um, Marianne Dashwood. (Turns out his late wife’s favorite book was Sense and Sensibility. If you’ve read it, you will recognize the name.) The kids have a Save-Daddy Plan but Daddy is trying to save himself by dating a woman who does not exist. Meanwhile, a new neighbor has moved in next door in their hometown of Cameron, Massachusetts. lantha Aaronson is a professor at the same college that he works at, and she is a widow with a cute baby. The Penderwick girls adore her and her child. The youngest daughter, Batty, is always over there, visiting them. Can you see where the plot is going?
The book is about more than just the Save-Daddy Plan. The kids have other interests. For example, Skye and Jane are the soccer players. Skye has a temper. She has been known to call the referee a kumquat. She loses her temper during a match when Jane has been fouled worse than usual. Jane, meanwhile, has a technique for keeping from crying during matches if someone bashes into her. She “channels” a British soccer player whom she says is named Mick Hart. When their soccer team, Antonio’s Pizza, is playing their arch-rivals, Cameron’s Hardware, things explode.
When Jane got hit too hard, bad things happened. Sometimes she started to cry, and sometimes she forgot how to play. And sometimes– and this was Skye’s least favorite possibility— she became Mick Hart and shouted odd things in an English accent… The ball was passed to Skye… when a shout rang out behind her. “CAMERON’S HARDWARE ARE GORMLESS DUFFS!” Rats, thought Skye, she isn’tfine and now she’s Mick, and who knows what “gormless duffs” means, but it sounds terrible.
Just like that, Skye’s temper was gone, and she didn’t care. For what good was a temper if you couldn’t throw it away when your sister was being kneed in the ribs?…and even the goalkeepers joined the battle, and the referees’ whistles were blowing.. The game was officially declared over, and everyone was sent away in disgrace.
This book is a lot of fun, with other things going on, like Rosalind not realizing that her old friend Tommy really, really likes her. She thinks he is just pond scum. She says to her friend Anna, “l really do hate him,” and Anna says right back, “l really do believe you.” The author, Jeanne Birdsall, can really, really write. This stuff is so good that the reader just eats it up. This is so much fun! So come in and read The Penderwicks on Gardam Street. You’ll wish you lived on Gardam Street, yourself.