Friday, May 11, 2012
The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall
I think how I got this book is pretty interesting. After pretty much giving up hope finding it in the public library in Singapore, I saw it in the MG Primary Library. About a week before I left for Japan. Thereafter, I gave up hope on ever finding it. So imagine my surprise when I saw it for 300yen in BookOff.
Finished imagining? If it involved barely suppressed squeals of joy, you're probably really close to what happened.
Basically, the book reminds me a lot of Enid Blyton. It's a children's book and unlike YA fiction today, it's not full of exciting/dystopian stuff. It's just like it's subtitle: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits and a Very Interesting Boy. But it works. It's a really enjoyable story.
The Penderwick Sisters are renting a cottage for the summer, next to the snooty Mrs Tifton. There, they meet (and immediately try to help) her son Jefferey from going to Pencey, an awful military boarding school. Of course, they get into various incidents as they make friends and try to help.
What made the book shine was really the characterisation of the sisters. I think that the author paid a lot of attention to the birth order and character because when I was reading the book, I thought: that's so true! (I have 3 siblings, although the last one is a boy). I could empathise with Rosalind (the eldest) almost immediately (plus I feel we're quite similar in character), and how I felt about the younger sisters varied based on what they were doing (again, my reaction was the same as Rosalind's) and how much I missed my own siblings.
The sisters are very united, with their own rituals like MOPS (Meeting Of Penderwick Sisters) and MOOPS (Meeting Of Older Penderwick Sisters), which are the kind of formal affairs that we used to do as children. Or at least, my family did. It's immensely fun when you have a ton of people to play make-believe with (I used to live with my cousins).
The narrative occasionally jumps from the point of view of one character to the other, but more or less maintains a third-person style. It's actually quite interesting because of some of the perspectives (like Hound).
Oh! How could I forget Hound? Hound is the family dog and Batty's (the youngest girl) best friend. He's very intelligent, but still a very typical dog. Reading his point of view is like seeing how a very loyal best friend might be like (with some kind of extrasensory perception because he always knows when Batty is in trouble).
Somehow, this is a really good book for when you're a long way from home and feeling a little homesick.