lundi 7 juillet 2008

It seemed to me that the cover showed the drawn outline of children running, a dog and what seemed like two rabbits! I looked at the title closely and it was called The Penderwicks (A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits and a Very Interesting Boy). So I wasn’t seeing things, there was a rabbit in the book cover. In fact this is Jeanne Birdsall’s first one and has won a host of awards including the National Book Award Winner for Young People’s Literature in 2005. It is the story of four sisters—Rosalind, Skye, Jane and Batty, who together with their widowed father and faithful dog Hound, set off for vacation, one fine summer day. Their destination is Arundel cottage. It is there that the sisters meet and befriend Jeffrey, the lonely son of the snobbish owner of Arundel. And because it is an adventure filled summer, they become involved in a number of high spirited games and various scrapes, including one with a bull and loose rabbits wreaking havoc everywhere.
This is a sweet summer read for children that is equally appealing to more adult readers. If you’re a fan of such classics as Noel Streatfeild books, L.M. Montgomery and Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking, you will surely enjoy the Penderwick sisters and their adventures. I really liked the fact that the sisters Birdsall has carefully delineated each with distinction. There is Rosalind, who is responsible and kind, Skye, tomboyish and fierce in her emotions and loyalty, Jane dreamy and determined at the same time and Batty who bravely proclaims that “we’re allowed to choose the people we talk to”. While previous children’s books reflected the mores of the times, oftentimes with the girl characters being limited in the depiction of choices before them, the Penderwicks has a much more modern sensibility. Skye for example loves math and excels in it. Both she and Jane are excellent soccer players. In previous literature, it would’ve been the boy characters that would’ve loved math and played soccer. More tellingly, it is Jeffrey who is under “lock and key” so to speak and it is the girls who rescue him and encourage him to speak his heart out to his mother. Much as I loved the children’s classics I read while growing up, it always seemed to me that boys got much of the adventures and games while girls where much more sheltered and its refreshing to read spirited girls with their own dreams and aspirations that don’t involved finding the prince and living happily ever after.
Jeanne Birdsall has just published the sequel to the Penderwicks and both books are now available at RWB!

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