This book is awesome! Any child would like it, as long as they're not into action-action-action-action books (or it could be a break from action-action-action-action). Rosalind is a responsible older sister, Skye is sassy and very intelligent, Jane is imaginative and a thinker, and Batty is childishly silly and innocent, just as a four-year old should be.
Areas of Praise:
Educational Value- Skye and Jane both are deep thinkers, but in different ways. Skye teaches herself algebra for fun, and Jane writes her own stories. Some kids will want to follow their lead and write their own stories, or show interest in algebra.
Positive Messages: This is a story about a family, broken (the mother died from cancer after Batty was born), yet close knit. Every Penderwick loves the others, even Skye and Jane, who fight a lot, and Skye and Batty, who don't understand each other very well. The sisters are very caring towards each other and have meetings called MOPS (Meetings of Penderwick sisters) and MOOPS, which is for everyone but Batty, who does sometimes feel left out. Jeffrey stands up to his mother, not shown in the best light, a fussy yet classy single mom with pride for her garden and no time for Jeffrey, and things work out for everyone.
Positive Role Models: Like I said earlier, some kids will want to emulate Jane and Skye's love for learning, but also Rosalind's level-headedness (most of the time), Jeffrey's passion for music, Cagney's kindness towards Batty, and Jane, Skye, and Jeffrey's love for soccer.
Areas of Concern:
Rosalind has a crush on Cagney, but it amounts to nothing, as he has a girlfriend. Jeffrey and the girls are hiding in the bushes and it is apparent that they see Mrs. Tifton kissing her boyfriend, Dexter.
Language: The sisters do their fair share of name-calling, Rosalind calls Skye a moron, Skye dishes out numerous names for Jane and Batty, and Mrs.Tifton says mean things about the Penderwicks, such as saying that Batty is odd, Mr. Penderwick is a pushover, Skye is sneaky and sarcastic, and the family as a whole is vulgar.
Worth noting: Mrs. Penderwick died shortly after Batty was born, and Rosalind tells the story to Batty one night (Batty's decision). Jeffrey plans to run away from his mother, and Dexter insults Jane's story. Mrs. Tifton and Dexter drink wine on Jeffrey's birthday.
Although it sounds like there are many things wrong with this story, it's good to know that there will be a happy ending.