Brooke Shirts's Reviews > The Penderwicks on Gardam Street

The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall
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Nov 08, 2008

it was amazing
bookshelves: books-read-in-2008
Read in October, 2008

It's so rare that a sequel surpasses the original, but this book has done it -- and keep in mind that the first book was wildly popular and a National Book Award winner.

Truthfully, though (dare I say it?) I am rather ho-hum about the first Penderwicks book. (Who in the world spends the summer in the country anymore? On a small liberal-arts college professor's salary? With four kids?)

But I digress. The Penderwicks on Gardam Street passes my personal litmus test for being Very Good: I already know I'm going to want to read it again.

The four Penderwick sisters have returned home to Gardam Street, a picture-perfect cul-de-sac where all the neighbors know and socialize together. But there's a cloud on the horizon: the girls' aunt has revealed a letter written by their long-dead mother, encouraging their father to begin dating once more. The girls are horrified by the idea of a stepmother, and begin concocting the Save-Daddy Plan, a wild scheme and web of lies to get their father to give up on dating. I probably don't need to mention that hilarity ensues, but it does.

Side plots include Rosalind's crush on the boy next door; little Batty's obsession with a spy named Bug Man; and Jane's creation of "Sisters and Sacrifice," a over-the-top melodramatic play about Aztecs. Oh yes -- and there's a new neighbor on Gardam Street -- a beautiful astronomer who the girls come to adore. And she's single, hmmm.

Birdsall has steeped the story in the pleasures of autumn: soccer games, leaf piles, Halloween, and frequent appearances by the thickheaded members of the high school football team. The first Penderwicks story was a summer tale; here's to hoping that Birdsall continues with the girls' adventures and gives us a story for all four seasons.
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