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Review of The Penderwicks in Spring

birdsall_penderwicks in springThe Penderwicks in Spring
by Jeanne Birdsall
Intermediate   Knopf   339 pp.
3/15   978-0-375-87077-4   $16.99
Library ed. 978-0-375-97077-1   $19.99   g
e-book ed. 978-0-307-97459-4   $10.99

In this fourth Penderwicks book, time has passed and the family landscape has changed. Mr. Penderwick has married the lovely Iantha; Rosalind is away at college; and Skye is fending off best friend Jeffrey’s romantic advances. (Aspiring author Jane, however, is as dreamy as ever.) And Batty, the impish little girl with butterfly wings, is now ten and the “senior member of the younger Penderwick siblings” — stepbrother Ben (seven) and half-sister Lydia (two). The story mostly belongs to Batty: already an accomplished pianist, she’s discovered a talent for singing. To raise money for (secret) voice lessons, she starts a neighborhood odd-jobs business. She’s employed as a dog walker, which sadly reminds her of her dear departed Hound. There’s a lot of melancholy (and some melodrama) in this book, with poor Batty suffering benign neglect from favorite-sister Rosalind (temporarily boy-crazy, and an insufferable boy at that) and bearing the brunt of some particularly hurtful words from Skye. On the plus side, Ben and Lydia, in their cheering-up efforts, emerge as formidable Penderwicks; across-the-street neighbor Nick (on leave from the army, older brother of Rosalind’s true love Tommy) provides no-nonsense advice; best friend Keiko remains true blue; and lovelorn Jeffrey finally snaps out of it enough to resume his role as Batty’s musical mentore. And at her climactic Grand Eleventh Birthday Concert, Batty rewardingly finds her voice.

From the March/April 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Elissa Gershowitz About Elissa Gershowitz

Elissa Gershowitz is executive editor of The Horn Book, Inc. She holds an MA from the Center for the Study of Children's Literature at Simmons College and a BA from Oberlin College.

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