The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall

The Penderwicks on Gardam StreetThere’s good news today!  The Penderwick girls, Rosy, Skye, Jane and Batty are back and–if possible–even more charming.

This time they’re wrestling with everyday incidents on their home turf, Gardam Street, a neighborhood reminiscent of 1950’s and 60’s television shows like “Father Knows Best,” “Leave It to Beaver” and “The Donna Reed Show.”  It’s a wonderful place where the people next door are more than neighbors, they’re friends.  On Gardam Street, kids can play outdoors unchaperoned, grownups have seemingly unlimited time to interact with little kids and every home has a responsible adult who can be counted on in time of need.  It’s the place where we all wish we lived.  It’s fiction but not fantasy.

And the truly wonderful thing, is that it’s also a place where “real things”—things that readers can empathize with–happen to the sisters.  They worry what other girls in their class think about them.  They have “teacher trouble.”  The boys across the street, best friends when they were all little are becoming show-offs and pests. There’s even a “mystery man”—if Batty is to be believed—prowling around the house next door.  It’s a lovely world; a sort of Pollyanna meets Hannah Montana.

The main thrust of the story this time is Rosy’s need to keep her father from fulfilling a promise he made to his wife right before she died. After coming up with her “Stop Daddy Plan”, Rosy lassoes her sisters into a plot to keep their father from dating.  Especially dating someone would could possibly end up being—gasp—their stepmother.

This plotline, in the hands of another author, could be cloyingly sweet at best and downright annoying at worst.  However, Ms. Birdsall manages to not only carry it off but, leave the reader wishing for more.  Even with the addition of a subplots involving mistaken identity that would make Shakespeare proud and Batty being just a little too “batty,” she’s written a book that is even better than its award-winning predecessor.

As the sage Mr. Penderwick might say, “tempus fugit.”  Let’s just hope that not too much time passes before we get a chance to visit the family on Gardam Street again—and again.

Posted by: Eileen

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