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The Penderwicks

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The Penderwicks

The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy
Author Jeanne Birdsall
Country United States
Language English
Genre Fiction
Publisher Alfred A. Knopf
Publication date
June 2005
Media type Print (paperback)
Pages 272 pp
OCLC 56631524
LC Class PZ7.B51197 Pe 2005
Followed by The Penderwicks on Gardam Street

The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy is a children's novel by Jeanne Birdsall, published by Knopf in 2005. It won the annual U.S. National Book Award for Young People's Literature (United States).[1]

This was Birdsall's first book published and it inaugurated the "Penderwick sisters" series, whose third chronicle of five that Birdsall plans was published in 2011. Both A Summer Tale and its sequel The Penderwicks on Gardam Street (Knopf, April 2008) were New York Times Best Sellers.[2]

The novel was inspired by the kind of stories the author read when growing up,[3] The National Book Award citation compares the novel to Louisa May Alcott's Little Women and E. Nesbit's The Story of the Treasure Seekers.[4] The fictional setting is more modern than Alcott's or Nesbit's, although not clearly contemporary with Birdsall's writing.


  • Plot 1
  • Characters 2
  • References 3
  • External links 4


The Penderwicks, a family of six, (four sisters, their father, and their dog) get lost on the way to Arundel but find it and their rental cottage with the help of Harry the Tomato Man and Cagney, the estate gardener.

When they get to the cottage, the girls choose their bedrooms, Skye getting a huge white bedroom with two beds, Jane getting the attic, and Rosalind and Batty get two small rooms right next to each other with a closet that has a passage to get to the other room. Then, Skye goes exploring, and meets Cagney personally. They start talking, but then Mrs. Tifton, the owner of Arundel, comes looking for Cagney. Skye hides then overhears Mrs. Tifton telling Cagney that he needs to get rid the Fimbrata rosebush that his uncle kept alive for 30 years, so Skye tells Cagney that he can move the rosebush to the cottage and he can come over every morning to water it. When Skye leaves, she meets a boy. She almost knocks him unconscious, and then tells him not to go near Mrs. Tifton's gardens and what a horrible person she is but finds out that the boy is Mrs. Tifton's son.

After Rosalind puts Batty to bed, Skye calls Jane and Rosalind to a MOOPS, Meeting Of Older Penderwick Sisters. Batty knows only about a MOPS which is meeting of Penderwick sisters. She tells them what she said to the boy, and Jane is sent to apologize to him the next day. Jane finds out his name is Jeffrey, and becomes friends with him. Meanwhile, at the cottage, Rosalind and Skye are baking cookies for Jeffrey, and Cagney comes over with the Fimbriata. So Rosalind goes to help Jeffrey, Skye finishes making the cookies, but broils them. When Rosalind comes back inside the house, she sees that Skye ruined the cookies. She accidentally insults Skye, and then Skye yells that she thinks that Jeffrey's a snob, right as he and Jane are walking through the door. Mr. Penderwick sends them on a walk, and then Batty almost gets attacked by a bull. Skye, Jane, and Jeffrey manage to save her, but aren't allowed to tell anyone what happened, because Mr. Penderwick and Rosalind will think Skye and Jane didn't take care of her well. But Batty's butterfly wings get scratched up, so they tell everyone that Batty got stuck in a rosebush. Rosalind fixes them for her, and everyone goes to Jeffrey's house for Churchie (beloved housekeeper and cook)'s gingerbread. Churchie wants Jeffrey to invite the girls to his birthday party but Jeffrey doesn't want them to come. After convincing a reluctant Jeffrey, Churchie brings the girls to choose beautiful dresses. Then they go to the birthday party but it turns out to be a disaster. At the birthday dinner, Mrs. Tifton starts to despise the girls, and Jeffrey finds out that his mother is going to marry Dexter Dupree, a very mean man. Jeffrey also finds out that Dexter is planning to send him off to Pencey Military Academy once he and Mrs. Tifton get married.

Over the next few days, many things happen. Skye now likes Jeffrey very much, and she, Jane, and Jeffrey play soccer and archery almost every day. They name their target Dexter Dupree, with a picture of Dexter's smirking face on it, and their soccer ball Pencey Military Academy. Also, Batty finds out that Cagney has rabbits, so she, Cagney, and Rosalind visit them in Cagney's apartment.. Yaz comes out from under the couch when Cagney has parsley, as usual, it's the first time Carla's ever come out when strangers are around, because she likes Batty so much. Rosalind and Batty start to visit the rabbits almost every morning. Sometimes Cagney was at his apartment, but usually he wasn't. Batty would always slip a carrot through the screen door, and then she must latch the door. If she doesn't, Cagney explains, Yaz will run away, get killed by an animal, and then Carla would die of loneliness, since she and Yaz are best friends

All of the Penderwick sisters hate Mrs. Tifton, but Batty is afraid of her. She's never been alone with Mrs. Tifton before, but when Rosalind is too busy to take Batty to see the rabbits, she goes alone. She sees Mrs. Tifton and Dexter there, and accidentally forgets to close the screen door. Batty let's Yaz out, and runs away. Batty tries to find him, but can't so she decides to go look for him in the forest. Hound senses Batty is missing, runs away, with all the Penderwick sisters and Jeffrey trying to catch him. He catches Yaz, and finds Batty, but right as Batty crosses the street, a car comes by. However, Jeffrey pulls her out of the way. The girls tell Mr. Penderwick what happened, and he says that in some cultures, when a person saves another person's life, their souls are linked together. They decide not to tell Jeffrey this, though.

One day, when Skye, Jane, and Jeffrey are playing soccer together, they accidentally go into the Arundel gardens, while the Garden Club Contest is going on, which Mrs. Tifton desperately wants to win. She gets second place, and is furious. She forbids Jeffrey to ever see the Penderwicks again, but when she and Dexter go shopping in Vermont, Skye and Batty go to the Arundel mansion. Jane stays home, because she has the flu and Rosalind has to take care of her. Dexter and Mrs. Tifton come home early and find Skye and Batty there. She kicks them out, but Skye goes back and listens to Mrs. Tifton lecturing Jeffrey to make sure he is okay.. She hears that she is sneaky and sarcastic, which she doesn't mind, but then hears that Rosalind is always following Cagney around like a lovesick puppy, and if she keeps that behavior up, one daysome man will let himself be caught and that will be the end of her wide-eyed innocence. Skye also hears that Mr. Penderwick is a pushover, she thinks Batty has a mental issue because of "her tacky wings and the odd way she stares without speaking", and that Mrs. Penderwick ran away from the family because she got tired of caring for all the girls. Skye loses all of her self-control, and comes storming into the room, telling Mrs. Tifton that her mother is dead. She leaves the house, and tells Batty that she is perfect.

That night, Skye tells Rosalind everything that happened, including the part about Rosalind's obsession with Cagney. Rosalind decides to go on a walk, but sees Cagney with another girl, Kathleen, hits her head on a rock, falls into the pond, and Cagney saves her. Churchie calls Skye and tells her that Mrs. Tifton and Dexter took Jeffrey for an interview at Pencey, the military school and she also delivers Skye a message from Jeffrey telling her that it wasn't her fault, though Skye believes it was. That night, Jeffrey comes over to the cottage and tells the girls that he is running away. He plans to sleep under Harry's tomato stand, and then stay with Churchie's daughter in Boston. Rosalind invites Jeffrey to stay with them for the night, and he accepts.

The next morning, Mrs. Tifton and Dexter come over to the cottage, trying to find Jeffrey. Jeffrey explains to Mrs. Tifton that he doesn't want to go to Pencey, and she finally listens to him. Even better, she lets him take a lesson at the New England Music Conservatory. In the end, the Penderwicks go home, Jeffrey and the rabbits and everyone else is happy.


Main article: List of characters in The Penderwicks series Each chapter tells a third person omniscient, but focuses heavily on the point of view from each of the Penderwick sisters.


  1. ^ "National Book Awards – 2005". National Book Foundation (NBF). Retrieved 2012-04-15.
    (With acceptance speech by Birdsall, introduction by panelist Liz Rosenberg, and information about all five Young People's Literature authors and books.)
  2. ^ The Penderwicks at Point Mouette. Retail product page. Retrieved 2012-04-16.
  3. ^ "Author Birdsall nets award for The Penderwicks". NPR books, November 19, 2005 ("All Things Considered" audio with print summary). National Public Radio.
  4. ^ Judges Citation. "2005 National Book Awards Winner, Young People's Literature". NBF. Retrieved 2008-01-29.

External links

  • Interview with Jeanne Birdsall at
  • - about how the Penderwicks won the National Book Award
  • Interview with Jeanne Birdsall at
  • Review at
  • Jeanne Birdsall's own official website
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