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.