I read the first three books in the Penderwicks series when my sister gave the books to me as a birthday gift a few years ago. My initial reaction to these books is here. Suffice it to say, I loved the books from the beginning and was anxious for my girls to get old enough to read them. When the fourth book in the series (The Penderwicks in Spring) came out in 2015, I immediately bought the book. I cried. I laughed. I loved it.
My children became interested in the books because they saw me reading them so much. We read the first book in the Penderwicks series a couple of years ago. They enjoyed the book, but we did not moved forward in the series because both Meg and Clare were very sensitive about death at that point and the second book in the series discusses the death of the Penderwicks' mother in much more detail. I thought it would be too much for them. With the passing of time, the girls no longer remembered much about the first book.
The day before we left for the mountains, we went to the library and picked out several audio books for the trip. The first two Penderwicks books were among those we chose. We didn't start with these books. We re-listened to a Liz Kessler book on our drive to the mountain house. We tried to start an A to Z mystery book, but we were having trouble with the CD skipping. I eventually put in The Penderwicks and the girls were all hooked.
Anne--our three-year-old, who is at times resistant to audio books--loved Batty, the youngest Penderwick. Batty loves all animals and is especially close to the family dog, Hound. While we do not have a family dog, Anne loves all animals and is especially close to every dog in our neighborhood. She regularly goes to our neighbors' house just to snuggle with their eighteen-year-old dachshund, who is very patient with Anne (or simply too old to move). Anne may not have understood everything going on in the book, but she understood Batty's love of animals and she understood that the big sisters were looking out for Batty. That is Anne's world as well.
There was so much about The Penderwicks that both Meg and Clare loved. The book constantly references other classic children's books which we have read as a family. The Penderwick girls have read many of our family's favorite books, including the Narnia series and A Little Princess. Meg and Clare caught every reference and reacted with great excitement.
The relationship between Skye and Jane, the two middle sisters, is very similar to Meg and Clare. Skye loves science and mathematics (not unlike Meg). Jane is a writer, who is constantly writing her Sabrina Starr stories (very much like Clare). Skye and Jane are very close in age (like Meg and Clare) and experience the trials of sharing a room and the joys of having space to themselves. Their closeness in age also means Jane and Skye are on the same soccer team and often together at school. That certainly rings true for Meg and Clare.
Clare has certainly been inspired by Jane's writing. We moved on to the second book in the series (by this point, I felt the girls were better prepared to handle it), The Penderwicks on Gardam Street. In this book, Jane writes a play about Aztecs. It is actually Skye's homework assignment, but Jane writes the play and Skye does Jane's non-fiction writing assignment. (For parents concerned about teaching morals, don't worry. Penderwick honor wins out in the end and the girls do the right thing.) Clare has taken to writing her own play about sisters and is trying to persuade her sisters to act out the parts.
I'm so happy that this series of books is resonating with my children. I think we'll keep moving along in the series. I can't wait for the fifth (and final) Penderwicks book to be released.