The Penderwicks on Gardam Street Book Poster Image

The Penderwicks on Gardam Street

Sequel to award-winner has more depth.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Several of the characters, adult and child, lie and deceive, but all feel badly about it and fess up. The sisters manipulate their father.


The children tackle, restrain, and tie up a man who tries to steal a friend's computer.


None, but lots of talk about dating and romance, both adult and young teen.

Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

A reference to a man killed by a drunk driver.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that there is nothing of concern here, beyond some dishonesty, which leads to guilt, confession, and repentance.

What's the story?

The four Penderwick sisters are back home, and facing an assortment of minor crises. Their widowed father is reluctantly starting to date, pushed by his sister and a letter his wife wrote before she died, leading the girls to hatch the \"Save Daddy Plan.\" Middle sisters Skye and Jane switch homework assignments, and now Skye is being forced to star in a play everyone believes she wrote. And oldest sister Rosalind is fumbling her way to her first romantic relationship.

Is it any good?


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.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the world of the Penderwicks. In what ways is it like your own life? How is it different? On balance, is it realistic? Do you know people like the Penderwicks?

Book details

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

This review of The Penderwicks on Gardam Street was written by

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Parent Written byRebeccaW December 20, 2012

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.
Teen, 14 years old Written byFutureCritic July 23, 2011

Another Well Written Penderwick Book

Another fantastic Penderwick book. Both are worth adding to your personal library. You won't regret reading this book.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Parent Written byRob79 April 9, 2008

Not quite as good as the first

I really enjoy reading these books with my daughter (age 9.) Of course, we enjoy all those "old" stories by Eager and Nesbit too. This book was not quite as good as the first -- I felt she put too much emphasis on Rosalind's interest in boys. Yes, girls are interested in boys at her age, but in this book she seems to think of nothing else. We get enough of that in regular media, it's unnecessary in books like this. I don't have as much of a problem with the other behaviors, if you read those older books the kids did things the parents didn't know about all the time. And if you read Harriet the Spy or Tom Sawyer, they behaved in ways that would be considered absolutely disreputable now. These Penderwick books are just good clean fun and we could use a lot more like them.