Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall

The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall

Review by Erica Moore

Those pesky boys. The Penderwick sisters have trouble. This time they aren’t saving a mysterious boy in an old mansion but their own father and the boy next door. Aunt Claire, their father’s sister, has decided it’s time for Mr. Penderwick to start dating again and that can only mean disaster. The girls launch a plan to find terrible women for their father to date but Mr. Penderwick seems to have his own plan. And then there’s Tommy the boy next door who begins dating an older girl in 8th grade much to Rosalind’s chagrin. Batty the youngest Penderwick spies upon and then befriends the new next door neighbor and her toddler son. Not to leave out Jane and Skye who have their own problems with a switched homework assignment and a school play. The school year is starting, the Penderwicks are home, and it’s anything but routine on Gardam Street.

The Penderwicks on Gardam Street is a sequel to The Penderwicks, a winner of the National Book Award. It isn’t necessary to read The Penderwicks before reading The Penderwicks on Gardam Street. Each book stands alone and can be enjoyed separately, but you will definitely want to read more about this family after reading only one book.

Part of the appeal of the Penderwicks is it’s timelessness. The Penderwicks on Gardam Street is set in the present but it easily could have been set in the 1960s or the 1980s. There is little to date this book and it will seem contemporary to kids 10 years from now. Their family stories and adventures could be happening to your family and neighbors.

This is a great book to use to get kids talking about their own family stories. Often times things that caused great family drama are seen in a different and amusing way later. This is the stuff of family legend. Many people have these stories to share. The kind that begin, remember when .... For families and educators it’s an opportunity to have kids do autobiographical writing.

There is tragedy in the Penderwick family. The girls’ mother dies shortly after “Batty” is born and she is named after her mother, Elizabeth. The books begin several years after her death and this event does shape Rosalind, Skye, Jane and Batty but it is not the main theme of either book by Birdsall. I believe that this is an example of bad things happening to every family but not letting them define us completely. This is a healthy family dealing with normal joys, sorrows and of course adventures all the while coming out on top. This will be a favorite for many years.

What Other Bloggers Are Saying:
Note: There are TONS of reviews out there, so here is just a sampling of the most recent.

Books and More:
"Sometimes sequels don't live up to the original book but this is NOT the case. " (read more...)

Becky's Book Reviews: "I enjoyed this book because I loved the characters. I loved the narrative. I loved how Birdsall wrote the story. The narrative voices. The language. The style. But I didn't love this one because of the plot." (read more...)

Never Jam Today:
"...mothers searching for one—one!—decent read-aloud on the new arrivals shelf are in for a treat. Each of the four girls are given time to shine, and a plot line that could have flopped—scheming potential girlfriends for Daddy—instead unfolds with charm." (read more...)

Books for Kids Blog: "Realistically drawn, the Penderwick sisters come through as genuine individuals who nonetheless manage to blend into a one-of-a-kind close-knit family." (read more...)

Cool Kids Read: "While it may seem a "girl" book, it should most definitely appeal to younger boys -- and might give them a good lesson about their female counterparts as well." (read more...)

Fuse #8: For those of you who couldn't care less about books with a classic feel and just want something funny, well written, and enticing, The Penderwicks on Gardam Street has your number. (read more...)

More Info:
  • Reading level: Ages 9-12
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (April 8, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375840907
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375840906
  • Source: Review copy from publisher


  1. Ah, yes, just finished the 2nd one myself. Not as good as the first, but solid. Thanks.

  2. Great review, and I love the way you noted other reviews. I'd like to do that more myself.

  3. It's good to know that this one stands on its own. I'd still like to read the first one. I've had my eyes on these for awhile.

  4. You make a great observation about family stories. In a way, I believe this allows members of the family (like your special aunt) to continue their wonderful influence even after they have passed on. Nice job.

  5. Best book EVER!!! I hope a third is soon to follow!!!