- Age Range: 8 - 12 years
- Grade Level: 3 - 7
- Lexile Measure: 0850 (What's this?)
- Series: The Penderwicks (Book 5)
- Hardcover: 304 pages
- Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers; First Edition edition (May 15, 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780385755665
- ISBN-13: 978-0385755665
- ASIN: 038575566X
- Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.1 x 8.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 60 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #10,093 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Penderwicks at Last Hardcover – Deckle Edge, May 15, 2018
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From the Publisher
"Beautifully crafted, both in descriptions and characterizations, this makes for a fitting end to a much-praised series."—Booklist, starred review
"Please don't go, Penderwicks; it's too soon to say goodbye." —Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
Jeanne Birdsall is the National Book Award–winning author of the children's book The Penderwicks and its sequel, The Penderwicks on Gardam Street, both of which were also New York Times bestsellers. She grew up in the suburbs west of Philadelphia, where she attended wonderful public schools. Although Birdsall first decided to become a writer when she was 10 years old, it took her until she was 41 to get started. In the years in between, Birdsall had many strange jobs to support herself while working hard as a photographer. Birdsall's photographs are included in the permanent collections of museums, including the Smithsonian and the Philadelphia Art Museum. She lives with her husband in Northampton, Massachusetts. Their house is old and comfortable, full of unruly animals, and surrounded by gardens.
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I thought the parts where Batty returns to Arundel with fuzzy memories (and maybe none at all) beautifully captured the magic of childhood. The events of that first summer aren't crystal clear to her, but they left a permanent imprint and brought Jeffrey into their extended family. The important fact is that Jeffrey is still part of the Penderwick clan as honorary brother. I also loved how Arundel was described as this mythical place in Penderwick lore, not quite real to Lydia. Isn't that exactly how places from childhood are?
I knocked it down a star because while I liked the book, I had to take some time to process through my disappointments. It really did feel light...the adventures just didn't have the depth of the ones in the others. That might have to do more with Lydia being the only Penderwick in focus, whereas the other books had much interactions among more young Penderwicks. The Penderwicks have grown and while Lydia still has loving relationships w/her siblings, her adventures are just different because she is so much younger than them. Why couldn't it have been that they ALL were at Arundel together with messes in the kitchen and more music jams? That said, there were some lovely new characters. Enough information was given to whet your appetite. A lot of the disappointment is in not knowing more, but again...I think that's appropriate because of how we limit what children are allowed to know. Also, Lydia would have been 3 - 7 years old during a lot of the time Rosalind, Skye, Jane, and Jeffrey were going through their college years and growing into adults, and Lydia would have been too young to remember much anyway. This is just reinforced by how Batty admits she isn't sure if her memories from Arundel are real at first, or derived from the stories the older ones would tell.
I will say that I do like how Lydia knows Skye as a smiling, more relaxed and loving sister. I think that shows the events in Penderwicks in Spring had a lasting impact on Skye and she was able to mature and grow, forming a better bond w/Batty along the way.
I think this might have been the only book w/no mention of Penderwick family honor?? And I wish there was more detail on the wedding, but alas...it was kind of like Martin and Iantha's wedding. But maybe that's what it's like for a kid. A lot of hubbub and excitement leading up to the wedding, but they don't care for speeches, dances, what the food was like. Most of that is of no consequence to a child.
Not a bad ending, but not my favorite of the series.
Editing to add:
I think we have become accustomed to series following a group of characters as they age. Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, Harry Potter... Birdsall’s series seemed to start that way, but you really understand that this series is fundamentally different in this book. Some of her intention was clarified in Penderwicks in Spring, when you only caught snippets of the older ones’ lives when the younger ones happened to be around and overhear. This is magnified even more in Penderwicks at Last.
I would say this is similar to Rainbow Valley and Rilla of Ingleside for the Anne of Green Gables series, where you don’t get a lot of detail on grown up Anne and Gilbert anymore. Of course, we got to follow those two into adulthood, so that shift wasn’t so difficult to bear. It may be harder for some Penderwicks fans than others to accept Birdsall’s literary choices in this book.
I could not connect with Lydia or Alice and found their characters thin and uninteresting. They faced no substantial obstacles or emotional struggles and showed really no development over the course of the book. It would be lovely to see real live children growing up carefree, their greatest challenges coming up with a personal motto, saying goodbye to a dog they've just met, or competing with older brothers by text message. But it makes for dull reading. The only emotional scenes in the book were overwrought and unbelievable, as when Lydia and Alice are sobbing and declaring life to be horrible just because Batty's ex-boyfriend and his dog leave after a two day visit. There were too many dogs and not enough dialog. Even the youngest Penderwicks' creative endeavors were tedious, with Lydia's flitting around and Ben's alien movies.
The other four books tackled big feelings and personal tragedies beautifully. The sisters had substance and showed emotional growth. I just didn't find that in this book.
Except guess who shows up the first day Batty and Lydia arrive at Arundel to start cleaning the house before other members of the family arrive? Together with Alice, the daughter of Cagney Pelletier, who had been a caretaker at Arundel when the family originally visited and now lives on the grounds with his family, Lydia tries to run interference with Mrs. Tifton, help Alice one-upsman her older brother who got to visit cousins in Canada, avoid being in Ben's movie, and of course help her family prepare for the wedding. When Batty's ex-boyfriend shows up with his Great Dane, Hitch (someone Lydia loves more than his owner), the summer turns into a delightful adventure (or it would be if Mrs. Tifton would quit showing up).
This is a fast, funny romp with a lot happening. I thought the subplot with Lydia and Alice reading to the sheep was kind of dumb, but the rest was enjoyable, especially the storyline that began on page 159. Lydia is a great protagonist and I find myself so envious of her summer: countryside, fireflies, nature walks, animals! I read a couple of reviews that said Mrs. Tifton had lost "her teeth," but I think that is expected. In the first book she is a total villain from the POV of four children, the eldest only twelve. Now that the original girls are so much older (although Batty is still terrified of her from her four-year-old memories) and Lydia has been raised with stories of her and observes her from a different angle, she can be seen clearly for what she is: a discontented social-climber who actually lives a very unhappy life being unable to orchestrate everyone's lives and having been betrayed by the poor choices she made in male companions, ironically except for the one man she pushed away, Jeffrey's father. Her outlandish efforts to avoid him at the Penderwick wedding showed she never had "teeth," she was always pathetic; she just seemed like a monster to four little girls.
I know this is "the last of the Penderwicks," but maybe, just maybe in the future, Ms. Birdsall, we might hear more about that little subplot that began on page 159? Please?