I’ve recently moved from a iPad for reading to a small 6″ screen Kindle. My daughter says that the backlight on the iPad is bad for settling you in to sleep at night. That may be true, but also true is the the fact that a book may be bad for settling you in to sleep at night. I have a tendency to read and forget the time. At least the iPad let me turn off the beside light.
Which brings me to the Penderwicks. Or Jeanne Birdsall’s The Penderwicks. I was looking for a book that would not have any relevance to what I was currently writing which was narrative non fiction and middle grade mystery, looking for something that would be totally different. For night time reading I use the North Carolinas Digital Library. I like it because I can go on at 10 pm at night, find a book and read for an hour. And while I miss the physically holding and hoarding of books on my shelves, truth is I would be going to the library on a regular basis were it not for the digital library and, Sigh, they are usually not open at ten at night.
So, back to the Penderwicks. There are four books that start with the family as they go off on vacation. There are four sisters between age eleven and baby. These are nice kids, obedient, loving, careful of each other’s feeling when they remember, which is most often. The feel of the stories harken back to a time when play was mostly out of doors, families ate dinner together, and respect for adults-father, teachers, neighbors–was a good thing and always present. While the setting seems contemporary the story also feels like it’s historical, a long time ago.
And once you are hooked on the lives of the family and their neighbors you continue to read in the series because you have come to care about their relationships, their problems and how they manage their solutions. What I love about the stories is the way Ms. Birdsall was able to give us completely distinctive children, with different voices, likes, dislikes, and talents. I was enchanted with books one and two. By book three the oldest of the siblings was off on her own vacation, leaving it to the remaining three to carry the story. By book four, it was primarily the youngest who, along with a step brother, takes you to the end of the saga.
It was grand that Ms. Birdsall gave us closure to the family story, although, I think it came at a price I was not willing as a reader to pay. I personally prefer stories to end at a good place, not necessarily the end of the story. I get that JK Rowlings ending Harry so there could be no more stories, but Wait! there is. Now I have not yet read this, but there was a promise at the end of book seven that this was it. We knew Harry married Ginny [about which there is a ton of commentary] and they had children and Hogwarts as a school of magic continues. Good. Then This?
Back to the Penderwicks. Rosalind is all grown up and in love with the obvious choice. Skye is still independent. Jane is working toward being an accomplished author and Batty, the youngest, is now a responsible child, no longer the baby of the family.
Hmmm….I get that it’s the author’s right to say how the story ends. Somehow, tho, as a kid, I always the the best stories were like The Giver, where the author led us to the end of the story and let our own imaginations take the character where ever we wanted. Lovely as The Penderwicks are…I’d would have loved to imagine, rather than being told, where they would go.