BookPage Children's Top Pick, April 2015
Ten years ago, Jeanne Birdsall introduced readers to the funny, smart, sweet-but-never-saccharine Penderwick sisters, whose initial summer adventures were followed by two additional books. This fourth installment opens five years after The Penderwicks at Point Mouette. With Rosalind away at college and Skye and Jane busy with teenage pursuits, the focus is on 10-year-old Batty, along with her stepbrother Ben and the newest Penderwick sibling, 2-year-old Lydia.
Batty has known since her summer at Point Mouette that she loves playing piano. She’s planning a Grand Eleventh Birthday Concert with longtime family friend Jeffrey, as well as walking dogs to earn money for singing lessons (although her grief for recently departed Hound is ever present). But when she overhears something that upends her world, only the determined, imperfect, loyal love of her family can untangle the knot of long-held assumptions and secrets that threaten to overwhelm her.
Although it’s more of a tearjerker than its predecessors, the ending of this tale is still happy, and the story is still imbued with the hilarious family and neighborhood moments, ritualistic sisterly (now sibling-ly) meetings and perfectly drawn animal characters that Penderwick fans have come to love. The highlight here is the chance to learn the fates of minor characters from earlier books, including beloved Aunt Claire, stuck-up Mrs. Tifton and, most of all, brotherly neighbor Nick Geiger. A fifth and final Penderwicks book is planned, making this penultimate volume a treasure to be savored.