Parents' Guide to

The Penderwicks on Gardam Street

By Matt Berman, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 9+

Sequel to award-winner has more depth.

The Penderwicks on Gardam Street Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this book.

Community Reviews

age 10+

Based on 2 parent reviews

age 8+

Hard to put down! Classic feel

My family loves thes books! The girls are charming--loyal, strong, and funny!! Each has their own distinct personality and they compliment each other well. The best part is that they aren't obsessed with video games, electronics, television, and pop culture. The lack of technology gives the books a timeless quality. Their loyalty to one another, the Penderwick family honor, their struggles with deceit of any kind, and their tender way of caring for one another (even when they make mistakes), are all excellent talking points. I read this aloud to my 6 and 8 year olds and by the end, my son was saying "loquacious" when referring to his talkative older sister :) Excellent vocabulary building! Great series and another wonderful book!

This title has:

Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
age 11+

Anti-Semitic on Gardam Street?

My 9 year old son and I very much enjoyed listening to the CD version of The Penderwicks. The structure and flow of the books took me back to some of my favorite books in childhood. I was thrilled that my rough and tumble boy loved the very grounded story about 4 sisters. We have been eagerly listening to The Penderwicks On Gardam Street and I have been as pleased with it as I was with the first one, until the very last chapter of the book when the villain is exposed. The villain has been referred to as, "Bug Man", by Batty the youngest sister throughout the book. Turns out "Bug Man" has been stalking The Penderwick's next door neighbor, Iantha, accusing her of stealing his research at the University. He breaks into Iantha's home and steals her computer but is caught and held by the industrious Penderwick sisters. In the course of his captivity he is called, "slime, nut, nasty thief, and a pathetic little person". Bug Man reveals to the children that his name is Norman Birnbaum. Immediately I felt alarmed at hearing the very Jewish name. Then something dawned on me. The Penderwicks live in Connecticut and are obviously white. All the characters in the books so far have been white no minorities to be found. The other characters the Penderwicks socialize with have been either clean cut athletic types or New England intellectuals. I find it very disturbing that the only character with a Semitic sounding last name is a slimy caricature. Perhaps the Penderwick series is a bit too much like some of the children's books of the past.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (2):
Kids say (4):

This second book is better than the first. As hinted by the old-fashioned silhouettes gracing their covers, the Penderwick books deliberately hearken back to an earlier era in children's literature, when the world was safe, problems were small, humor was clean, and kids roamed free. A cross between a '30s screwball comedy (think You Can't Take It with You) in which all the characters have an excess of eccentric personality, and a '50s sitcom (think Father Knows Best), this series is a nostalgia trip for boomers who grew up on The Moffats by Eleanor Estes and Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome.

While the characters still tend to be rather one-dimensional, the caricatures of the first book are gone, though the problems -- stepparents and budding romance -- are similar. The characters are likable (no cardboard villains this time), and the story whizzes by effortlessly and pleasurably (though occasionally absurdly, as when the children capture a thief). For parents looking for books like the ones they read in their own childhoods, and for kids looking to escape from violent fantasy and action/adventure into a simpler, sweeter world, this is a good choice.

Book Details

  • Author: Jeanne Birdsall
  • Genre: Family Life
  • Book type: Fiction
  • Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
  • Publication date: April 1, 2008
  • Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
  • Number of pages: 308
  • Last updated: July 12, 2017

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