Our latest book club selection is a nostalgic story about the adventure-filled summer days of a close-knit family, the Penderwicks. While renting a cottage on a large estate, the four Penderwick sisters befriend the estate owner’s son, Jeffrey. No longer lonely, Jeffrey is thrilled to romp around the estate with his new friends. After he rescues the youngest sister, Batty, from a neighbor’s bull, the girls decide to make Jeffrey an honorary Penderwick. Unfortunately, Jeffrey’s mother isn’t at all pleased about the free-spirited girls’ influence on her son and makes a drastic decision that will affect Jeffrey’s future.
About the Book
Best For: Kids ages 8 to 12.
You’ll Like It If You Like: Stories that feature loving families and independent, tech-free play. Readers often liken the closely bonded Penderwick sisters to Little Women’s March sisters but the story is also reminiscent of Anne of Green Gables as each Penderwick sister has a memorable personality.
Major Themes: Friendship, growing-up, family.
What It’s About: The Penderwick sisters, their widowed botanist father, and their dog, Hound, rent a lovely cottage on the Arundel estate for a three-week summer vacation. Each of the girls has their own distinctive personality: 12-year-old Rosalind is the responsible older sister who misses their mom and watches over her younger siblings, 11-year-old Skye is an organizer who loves learning math but whose temper gets her into trouble, 10-year-old Jane loves books and writes the creative Sabrina Starr adventures, and 4-year-old Batty is an animal-loving explorer who always wears butterfly wings.
The girls become good friends with a boy named Jeffrey who lives on the estate. Most days the sisters and Jeffrey explore and take part in technology-free activities like bow and arrows, visiting the gardener’s pet rabbits, baking cookies, playing soccer, or catching lightening bugs. When Jeffrey, Skye, and Jane accidentally crash their soccer game into Jeffrey’s mother’s fancy Garden Club party, their shared fun abruptly ends. Disapproving of the Penderwicks’ influence, Mrs. Tifton decides to send Jeffrey away to military school. This prompts Jeffrey to run away. The girls hide Jeffrey for a night but he’s found the next day and returned to his mother. Just as the Penderwicks are leaving Arundel, Jeffrey meets their car with some good news and a good-bye … for now.
Why We Picked It: It’s refreshing to read about a family who loves each other deeply and kids who entertain themselves without technology. Each book in the series is quite wonderful, which is why we’re excited about the May 15, 2018 release of the final book in the series, The Penderwicks at Last (also available in audiobook format).
The Book Club Meeting
Churchie, Jeffrey’s housekeeper, feeds the kids gingerbread with whipped cream and strawberries on top. Make this delicious treat for your book club meeting.
While most older readers can read The Penderwicks independently, it is also a perfect book to read snuggled up together at bedtime.
- The sisters and Jeffrey love to do many things — explore, play, read, and write. Which of their summer activities do you also like to do?
- Jeffrey saves Batty’s life, so now the sisters consider him part of the family. What do you think about this? What would someone need to do to be in your family?
- If you wrote a Sabrina Starr story, what would it be about? Who would Sabrina save?
- Churchie’s kindness balances out Mrs. Tifton’s sternness. Why do you think the author did this? What is that like for Jeffrey?
- Mr. Penderwick says that “People sometimes make unexpected choices when they’re lonely.” Why do you think he says this about Mrs. Tifton?
- Tifton doesn’t listen to Jeffrey. How do you think this makes him feel? Has this ever happened to you in your own family? What did you or could you do to work it out?
- When Skye overhears Mrs. Tifton talking rudely about the Penderwick family and their mother, she loses her temper. What would you have done in that situation?
- What would you do if Jeffrey ran away to your house? Do you think the sisters did the right thing by hiding him?
- What does Rosalind realize about her crush on Cagney as she’s leaving Arundel? How did this experience change her?
- What do you think about Batty’s good-bye present to Jeffrey? What does this gift mean? What good-bye present would you have left for Jeffrey?
Activities to Dive Deeper into The Penderwicks
Random Order: When the girls need to take turns, they use their invented “Hound Draw for Order” method. Make up your own unique but random way to determine the order of taking turns. Consider using a beloved pet like Hound; inventing a new variation of Rock, Paper, Scissors; or picking something other than straws.
Latin: Mr. Penderwick loves to speak in Latin. Pick a Latin phrase to learn and use it throughout the next week.
Dress Up: The Penderwicks raid the attic with Churchie to find fancy clothes for Jeffrey’s birthday dinner. Borrow fancy clothes from a sibling or parent to wear to the book club meeting.
Garden Party: Decorate your book club like a fancy garden party. Draw a map of your own imaginary estate’s gardens including a hedge, flowers, and a pond.
Technology-Free Activities: The Penderwicks and Jeffrey spend their time playing. Brainstorm a list of fun, playful activity ideas you like to do that don’t require technology. Keep this list handy.
What to Read Next
If you loved The Penderwicks, you’ll love the memorable families and captivating characters in these stories, too.
Discover All the Books in The Penderwicks Series
To celebrate this Brightly’s Book Club for Kids selection, we’re giving away three sets of The Penderwicks series by Jeanne Birdsall! Enter for your chance to win below.
Not seeing the form below? You can also enter here.
Let us know what you thought of The Penderwicks in the comments below.