The Penderwicks in Spring by Jeanne Birdsall, review by Melissa Fox
It's been four years since the last Penderwicks book, and I have missed Rosalind, Skye, Jane, and Jeffrey. I have especially missed Batty, the youngest, with all her quirks and charms.
Thankfully, The Penderwicks in Spring is Batty's book. She's 11 now, and has basically become the Penderwick In Charge. Rosalind is off at college, Skye is a senior in high school (as is honorary Penderwick Jeffrey) and Jane is a junior. With all the older ones too busy to help out, that leaves Batty in charge of her step-brother Ben and their half-sister Lydia. That's a lot of responsibility for Batty, who is used to being the youngest.
The best thing about this book is that even though Batty struggles -- with her beloved Hound's death and with some unfortunate knowledge about her mother -- she finds her own way. She rekindles a friend with a surrogate big brother, Nick, who is home from Iraq. She starts a dog walking business. She and Ben and Lydia develop the sort of relationship that Batty once had with her older sisters. Batty has always been the little sister, the tag-along, so it's marvelous to see her grow into her own person.
But the best thing about this book is that's it's just as good as all the other Penderwicks books. Birdsall is masterful at capturing the innocence of childhood as well as the more complex of emotions: frustration with being young, a bit of despair, a bit of helplessness. And yet, it truly is a funny book -- the Penderwicks are witty and there is an undercurrent of humor throughout -- but it's also one that tugged at my heartstrings and made me cry in the end.
In short: it's honest, and simple, and absolutely wonderful.