They were just as good in The Penderwicks on Gardam Street.
And now, we get even more of them in The Penderwicks at Point Mouette, the long-awaited sequel that the School Library Journal says "takes readers slightly out of their comfort range but not so far that they feel adrift."
The very first line pulls you in. "The Penderwick family was being torn apart." Oh my goodness! you think, and squirm a little deeper into the couch and pull the book a little closer to your face as though to telepathically discover, before reading any farther, what tragedy could possibly pull Rosalind, Skye, Jane, and Batty apart.
Then you learn it's not a tragedy. Just separate vacations.
It's summer time. Mr. Penderwick and his new wife Iantha (and Iantha's son, baby Ben) are off to England for "scientific conferences and a bit of honeymoon." Oldest sister Rosalind is off to New Jersey on a vacation with her best friend Anna.
The rest of the Penderwick girls - Skye, Jane, and Batty - are off to Maine to spend two weeks with Aunt Claire at Point Mouette. This makes Skye, in Rosalind's absence, Oldest Available Penderwick (OAP for short), a duty that Skye is grimly determined to fulfill as best she can.
The Maine beach is a lovely mixture of rocky shores and sand, and the cottage where they're staying with Aunt Claire is just right, not too big and not too small. As they settle in Skye thinks that maybe, just maybe, she can get through her OAP duties unscathed.
Then she accidentally destroys the list she created that gave her the much-needed guidelines for taking care of Batty.
Then Jane gets Writer's Block.
Then Jeffrey, their friend from book one who was supposed to go on vacation with them in the first place before his nasty mother changed her mind at the last minute and forbade him to go, is suddenly allowed to spend the two weeks with the three Penderwick girls at Point Mouette.
Then Jane falls in love, and later takes a bad fall onto some rocks, frightening Skye half to death.
Then Batty reveals she has a gift for music.
Then Jeffrey discovers someone who may, or may not, be important to him in a very special way.
Then there's a bonfire.
Then there's a concert.
And at the end the whole Penderwick family is reunited in their little house on Gardam Street.
Jeanne Birdsall somehow manages to capture the essential whimsical delight of a close-knit family without coming off as fake, forced, or foolish. Each character has a definite three-dimensional aspect that makes them like real people, people you'd want to know, to hang out with, maybe play a rough game of soccer with. Even with four different sisters, Jeanne Birdsall manages to make them at once unique and believable, from the responsible Rosalind, to the scientific Skye, from the writerly Jane to the adorable multi-faceted Batty.
The Penderwicks at Point Mouette is a classic destined, along with its two predecessors, to have a long, long life in every book-lover's library.
My rating: *****
Please do take a moment to visit Jeanne at her website, and enjoy the utterly adorable author interview (in two parts) included here for your enjoyment.