Reading Level: Middle Grades, ages 8-12
Bottom Line: The best installment of the Penderwick family adventures to date features ten-year-old Batty, a new dog walking enterprise, the airing of family secrets, and new personal discoveries.
Both long-time Penderwick fans and those just discovering this delightful family will enjoy The Penderwicks in Spring. Batty takes center stage in this fourth Penderwick volume, and, like each of her three older sisters, has unique gifts and personality traits all her own. Unlike her older three sisters, though, Batty is quite shy and reserved with her deepest feelings. Bereft of those who understand her best (older sister Rosalind is away at college, adopted brother Jeffrey is also away at school, and Hound is no longer with them), Batty must navigate fifth grade, Skye and Jane and their rowdy teenaged friends, and two-year-old Lydia with only the help of second grade Ben.
Ben is sufficient help when the issues are Batty’s new dog walking business and how to avoid Lydia. But it is Jeffrey whom Batty is eager to tell about her newfound singing ability; she hopes he will help her prepare a magnificent birthday concert. But when Batty overhears a heart-wrenching secret that involves her own personal history and Jeffrey is banished during the same conversation, to whom can she turn? As many shy people do, Batty turns inward and spirals into depression.
Birdsall deftly portrays Batty’s depression and angst firmly in Batty’s charming ten-year-old voice without the trappings of modern day psychology. It is Batty’s family who rallies around her to determine the cause; her beloved family and close friends gently restore Batty’s good humor. Siblings must confess and be reconciled, and the parents demonstrate great balance in caring for their daughter, wisely recognizing when one parent or the other is best in a given situation. True reconciliation is often difficult, and Birdsall allows her characters to wrestle with it. It is refreshing to see such a genuine picture of confession and reconciliation; would that all our families modeled this same love and concern for one another. This is a heartwarming read that families will enjoy sharing with each other; they might even shed a (happy) tear or two and will rejoice at the picture-perfect epilogue. [See our reviews of the first three Penderwick books: The Penderwicks, The Penderwicks on Gardam Street, The Penderwicks at Point Mouette]
Overall Rating: 4.75 (out of 5)
- Worldview Rating: 4.5
- Artistic Rating: 5
Categories: Middle Grades, Starred Review, Realistic Fiction, Character Values, 4 stars and up
Cover image from Amazon, A copy of this book was received from the publisher for a fair review.