Best books for kids: The Penderwicks

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“The Penderwicks” by Jeanne Birdsall is one of the Reading Kingdom’s recommended best books for kids. Melissa Gaynor explains why:

What You Need to Know:

• Winner of the National Book Award, The Penderwicks is Jeanne Birdsall’s first book.
• A story of sisterhood and friendship, this book will appeal to a wide age range.
• There are many references to the girls’ mother who had died of cancer four years earlier.
• The story and the characters are wholesome and reminiscent of another era.


The Penderwicks is a timeless tale about family, sisterhood and growing up. The books revolve around four sisters with very distinct personalities and their intellectual, although slightly oblivious father. Their mother passed away years earlier, falling ill to cancer right after the birth of her fourth daughter. The oldest, Rosalind is dependable and on the verge of adolescence, while Skye is sporty and good at math, Jane is a writer and romantic, and Batty is the baby sister who never knew their mother. The girls, whether at home or on vacation, deal with typical challenges of growing up like sibling rivalry, friendship, first crushes, and unappealing class work. As they learn to make thoughtful decisions and use good judgment, they are always bound by honor and their love of one another.

These memorable characters will stay alive in readers’ minds long after they’ve read this series… As a parent, I loved this book. It reminded me of books from another era. A time, before everything had to have an edge – or a half dead creature like a vampire or zombie – and before cell phones made our kids accessible 24/7. It is engaging, the characters are generally good-natured and there is an element of innocence to everything they do. They’re not perfect, but the mistakes they make are generally age appropriate and benign.”

Have your children read The Penderwicks? What did they think of the book?

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