Release Date: March 24, 2015
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Springtime is finally arriving on Gardam Street, and there are surprises in store for each member of the family. Some surprises are just wonderful, like neighbor Nick Geiger coming home from war. And some are ridiculous, like Batty's new dog-walking business. Batty is saving up her dog-walking money for an extra-special surprise for her family, which she plans to present on her upcoming birthday. But when some unwelcome surprises make themselves known, the best-laid plans fall apart.
Filled with all the heart, hilarity, and charm that has come to define this beloved clan, The Penderwicks in Spring is about fun and family and friends (and dogs), and what happens when you bring what's hidden into the bright light of the spring sun.
With over one million copies sold, this series of modern classics about the charming Penderwick family, from National Book Award winner and New York Times bestseller Jeanne Birdsall, is perfect for fans of Noel Streatfeild and Edward Eager. (courtesy of Goodreads)
The Penderwicks series is an example of how beautiful and complex Middle Grade novels can be. The Penderwicks in Spring is the fourth book in the series. It takes place quite a long time after the prior books. Batty, who was four in the first book, is now almost eleven. She is the central character of the book. The older girls Rosalind, Jane, and Skye are in college or the last years of high school. Rounding out the family is their step-brother Ben and their 2 year old half-sister Lydia.
My main complaint about this series is that there is typically three years between each book. Obviously, my memory fades. Thankfully, it does come back quickly, but it took me awhile to reacquaint myself with the girls' personalities.
Batty has grown into a lovely girl. She is painfully shy (something I didn't recall from the earlier books but surely I've just forgotten). She has a passion for music. In this novel, she discovers that she has a beautiful singing voice and has to battle between her love of music and fear of the spotlight. She is also mourning the death of her beloved dog, Hound, which made me sad because I fondly remember him from previous books.
The book goes to some really deep places for a middle grade read. Batty is not only processing Hound's death, but also has to deal with the death of her mother (who died when she was a baby) in ways she never did before. We come to understand how the mom's death has profoundly affected the kids and their relationship with each other despite its long distance and their love for their stepmother Iantha. There is also a vivid and heart-breaking depiction of depression. It's hard to read the depths of despair that Batty reaches, but I think an important thing for young readers to understand.
Boys are more a part of this book than the previous ones. Rosalind brings him a guy that everyone hates. Their neighbor Nick comes home from the military and is a stalwart young man that the entire family worships. Rosalind's ex-boyfriend Tommy also plays a small role. But Jeffrey - beloved Jeffrey - is the most significant boy. His unrequited love for Skye and her rejection of him have consequences for the entire family. I was really frustrated with Skye in this book. She was so selfish in alienating Jeffrey from the family, just because she didn't "like" him.
I truly hope that The Penderwicks series is still in print in 100 years. It has the feel of my favorite classic children's books. In some ways, the plots of the books aren't that important. What's most enjoyable is experience life with the wonderful Penderwicks children. It is a happy place to be, even when there's a lot of sadness involved as with this book.
Recommendation: Read it! The entire series! Required reading.
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