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

Common Sense Media says

Sisters romp through summer in old-fashioned charmer.





What parents need to know

Positive messages

The girls trespass, sneak out of the house, eavesdrop, and are temperamental.

Not applicable

Some kisses and imagined kisses.

Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Adults drink wine.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that The Penderwicks, the story of a widower and his four daughters on summer vacation in the Berkshires, won the 2005 National Book Award. The story is full of innocent adventures and misadventures, and the girls misbehave a  bit: rampaging through Mrs. Tifton's formal gardens, sneaking out of the house, losing their tempers, and not always being truthful. There's a first crush and a few kisses.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

The Penderwicks -- responsible older sister Rosalind, 12; temperamental Skye, 11; budding writer Jane, 10; little Batty, 4; and their botanist father (their mother is dead) -- head out for a summer vacation at a rented cottage on the Arundel estate in the Berkshires. There they meet Jeffrey, the musically talented son of Mrs. Tifton, the snobbish owner of the estate, and Cagney, the teen groundskeeper. After some initial social disasters, the girls and Jeffrey get to be good friends, and Rosalind develops a crush on Cagney.

But Mrs. Tifton, supported by her equally mean and stuck-up beau Dexter Dupree, doesn't approve of the Penderwick girls or their friendship with her son. After a miserable and disastrous birthday party for Jeffrey, they overhear his mom and Dupree planning to marry and send Jeffrey away to military school. Gentle, artistic Jeffrey is horrified, and when his mother won't listen to his pleas, he plans to run away.

Is it any good?


THE PENDERWICKS is a leisurely paced, old-fashioned kind of story about children enjoying a summer of outdoor play. It won the 2005 National Book Award and was a bit hit with readers and critics who delighted in its humor, family dynamics, and nostalgic atmosphere, despite a copule of one-note characters (the mean and snobbish Mrs. Tipton and her boyfriend).

The Penderwicks spawned the successful sequels The Penderwicks on Gardam Street and The Penderwicks at Point Mouette.


Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the characters' behavior. Is Mrs. Tifton correct in her criticism of Mr. Penderwick's parenting?

  • How do you think the Penderwicks' childhood is different from how most kids live today?

  • Is it fun to see how kids can make up their own fun all day long without texting or playing video games?

Book details

Author:Jeanne Birdsall
Genre:Family Life
Topics:Adventures, Brothers and sisters, Friendship
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Alfred A. Knopf
Publication date:November 20, 2005
Number of pages:262
Read aloud:9
Read alone:10

This review of The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy was written by

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Parent Written byoohlalisa August 24, 2011

14 thumbs up

Fantastic wholesome book for kids & grown ups of all ages. We listened to it on a road trip and my 5 & 7 yr olds laughed at the escapades, my 9 yr old would beg us to turn it back on and even my 2 year old laughed at the dog's antics. Not to be missed are here references to (and recommendations for) old-fashioned classics. I have read the 2 following books and found them just as good, if not better.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Kid, 11 years old September 26, 2010
I love this book It Is the Best book ever
What other families should know
Great messages
Kid, 9 years old March 1, 2009

Very Interesting Book

I just finished this book today and I gotta say, it was very good. I would recommend this for any child.


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