The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall

“After a delay in securing their usual Cape Cod vacation rental, a widowed father and his four precocious daughters settle for a month in the guest house on Arundel, a gorgeous estate in the Berkshires. Each of the Penderwick sisters is distinct, equipped with her own narrative perspective and set of quirky habits, but the story is driven by the girls’ interactions with their snooty hostess Mrs. Tifton and her suffering son, Jeffrey. The Penderwicks establishes a certain kitschy self-awareness even before the novel begins, with both its clause-filled subtitle and the retro gray-scale silhouettes that decorate each descriptive chapter title. Birdsall paints Arundel similarly with lyrical hyperboles – describing the cottage in one instance as “the creamiest, butteriest yellow the Penderwicks had ever seen,” and “all a cottage is supposed to be” – creating a sense of wonder and nostalgia about her prose that may appeal to adults who recall fondly the pastoral landscapes of The Secret Garden or Anne of Green Gables. But when coupled with a predictable, episodic plot – tension peaks with a stand-off between 4-year-old Batty Penderwick and a potentially vicious bull – the dreamy tone of the narrative seems affected and mismatched. However, elementary-aged readers are likely to respond to the realistic rendering of the characters, who rarely behave in a manner that would befit their idealized surroundings, root for Jeffrey’s escape from his quintessentially parental mother, and enjoy spending a summer vacation with the endearingly eccentric, tightly-knit Penderwicks.”


I always thought that reviewing books could be something of a lovely, fun job quite suited for my interests and habits. When I started to write book reviews online, I thought it would be a lovely, fun job almost suite for my interests and habits, but would probably require a lot of practice.

However, after modeling a review after the style preferred by those professional review publications I thought would be so lovely to work at, I am not so sure. Those were some painful 250 words, right there, and without much to show for it.

So I should probably rethink my career goals.

I successfully dyed my own hair on Friday night. Maybe it’s impossible to mess up when you pick a shade one tiny step lighter than your own color, but I can stop counting gray hairs again… and return to counting forehead wrinkles. And counting the 40 dollars I saved by Doin’-It-Myself.


Professional money-saver?

Then again, I dropped bucks on 2 separate fancy-coffee drinks, a gourmet (delicious) sandwich, a bottle of wine and crunchy things, new headphones (to replace the pair I bought last week for 5 dollars that suck), 2 cupcakes at Sweet, and 50 dollars on a new phone.

Professional forehead gazing wrinkle-counter?

I’m running out of ideas here. Might have to stop kidding myself and just be a flippin’ librarian already.


One Comment to “The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall”

  1. 1. I started dying my hair at 26. When I got the job at MDL.

    2. If you want to be a reviewer for VOYA they just contacted me again (cuz I quit a few years ago, again, when I got the job at MDL.) I’m just saying.

    3. We miss you. You should come back and do puppet shows again.

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