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From the Penderwicks series, volume 4

by Jeanne Birdsall

Age Range: 8 - 12

Pub Date: March 24th, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-375-87077-4
Publisher: Knopf

A new and darker installment in the acclaimed series about the loving and bustling family.

Several years have passed since the events of the third title, The Penderwicks at Point Mouette (2011). This latest stars Batty, nearly 11 and youngest of the four original sisters, and two newer siblings—Ben, son of Mr. Penderwick’s second wife, whom he married at the end of Book 2, and Lydia, the 2-year-old born of this marriage. Batty studies piano passionately, and a new music teacher at school discovers that she sings beautifully, too, so the girl undertakes a dog-walking business to earn money for voice lessons. Then Batty overhears a sister’s comment that, shockingly, betrays long-held, deeply festering anger and resentment toward her. Sensitive Batty keeps the new revelation to herself and takes an emotional nose dive. How or whether this is resolved will keep readers turning pages. Newcomers to the series are assisted by explanations of characters and past events. Longtime fans will enjoy it, too, while feeling Batty’s pain and rooting for her recovery. They’ll also forgive what have become stock series trademarks: some improbable turns of events; almost-too-perfect familial and neighborly relationships; and nonchildlike dialogue issuing from the mouth of the babe. Not only is toddler Lydia’s speech beyond her years (as was Batty’s in the earlier books)—save for referring to herself in the third person—but she effortlessly communicates in several languages.

Not without some flaws, but overall, another charmer that will generate smiles, tears and fuzzy feelings. (Fiction. 8-12)