The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy

by Jeanne Birdsall


When the Penderwicks’ summer beach house rental falls through, a cottage in the Berkshire Mountains provides three weeks of adventure and friendship.

Why I like this for a read aloud book:

*Realistic relationships between siblings
*Kind, loving father
*Siblings take responsibility for and solve any problems that arise
*Feels like a vacation anyone would love

Family Fun

During the drive, the girls play “I Went to the Zoo and Saw.” Play “I Went to the Zoo and Saw.”

As described in the book, the first person says, “I went to the zoo and saw…” something that begins with an “A”. (Anteater)

The next person says, “I went to the zoo and saw (whatever the first person said)…” and then something that begins with a “B”. (An anteater and a buffalo)

Continue through the end of the alphabet.

*Modify the game by changing where you went.

You could play “I Went to Antarctica and Saw..” or “I Went to the Science Museum and Saw…” or “I Went to School and Saw…” or anywhere you’ve been lately.

This is a great game for car rides or while waiting for the doctor, etc.

More Family Fun

Batty loves her “beloved orange-and-black butterfly wings.” Make Butterfly Wings.

You will need:
14-16 gauge wire or wire hangers
Electrical tape
2 pair of black knee high stockings or regular stockings cut shorter
Acrylic or poster paint
Elastic or ribbon
An embellishment for the center of the wings

Either cut four 48″ pieces of 14 gauge wire, or use four wire hangers like I did.

Use pliers to straighten the kinks in the hanger and then shape it into an elongated circle.
Twist the curved end of the hanger into a circle. Wrap the circle and the twisted part with electrical tape being sure to cover wire ends so they aren’t sharp.

Bend the wire into the shape you want for the wings. (I found that the stockings don’t allow the wings to be very wide, so pick a shape that will accommodate the stocking unlike the one pictured here!)

Tape the top two wings together. Tape the bottom two wings together.

Slip a stocking over each of the wire loops.

Wrap the ends of the stockings securely around the taped wires. Secure them in place with hot glue or needle and thread.

Paint the design you want onto the wings.

Batty’s wings remind me of monarch butterfly wings. Here is the picture I used for inspiration:

(When I discovered I didn’t have orange paint I followed my own advice to use what I have. I mixed red and yellow. Then I discovered I didn’t have a paintbrush! I used my finger and a cotton swab. I also discovered that the stockings I used on the bottom wings were woven differently than the stockings I used on the top wings so the paint went on a little differently.)
Tape all four wings together.
Measure your listener over one shoulder and under the opposite arm. Add 5″-8″ to that measurement and cut two pieces of elastic or ribbon that length. Tie or thread the middle of each piece of elastic or ribbon through the wire circles.
Use a purchased embellishment or make your own. I gathered the edges a square piece of fabric and pulled it tight.
Attach the embellishment to the intersection of the two sets of wings by sewing or hot glue.
Voila! Wings just like Batty’s!

I made the wings orange and black like Batty’s, but you could use any color of stocking, any color of paint, glitter, and any additional embellishments you want to create wings of any shape or style.

Fun Facts

Here are some fun facts about Monarch Butterflies:

*Monarchs are the only insects to migrate. They travel up to 2,500 miles!

*Some think the monarch uses the magnetic field of the earth and the position of the sun to find the town in Mexico where it spends the winter.

*In its caterpillar stage, it is striped yellow, white, and black.

*The Monarch caterpillar only eats milkweed. Once it is a butterfly, it can sip nectar from any flower.

*Chemicals in the milkweed make not only the caterpillar but also the butterfly poisonous, keeping it safe from predators such as frogs, birds, mice, and lizards.

Food Fun

Jeffrey tells the Penderwicks, “Churchie makes great gingerbread and wants everyone to come eat it.” Make Gingerbread.

You will need:
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. butter
1 egg
2 1/2 c. flour
1 1/2 t. baking soda
2 t. cinnamon
2 t. ginger
1 t. cloves
1/2 t. salt
1 c. hot water

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9″x 13″ baking pan.

Cream the sugar and butter together. Add the egg. Mix in the molasses. Sift the dry ingredients into the creamed ingredients and blend. Stir in the hot water. The batter will be about cake mix consistency.

Bake for 27-30 minutes until a toothpick comes out mostly clean. Don’t over bake or it will be dry.

Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream.
Be sure to invite everyone to come eat it!

Reading Reinforcement

*Rosalind’s friend tells her that “you can tell a lot about people from their hands.” Do you agree? What would someone’s hands tell you? What is your method for learning about people? How else could you tell something about people?

*”The Hound Draw for Order was a time-honored ritual with the sisters.” How do you decide who gets to pick the first piece of dessert or who goes first in a game?

*Jane writes about Sabrina Starr and her adventures. After whom do you think Jane models Sabrina? Who would you be if you were a hero or heroine who saved everything from hedgehogs to boys?

*Skye unintentionally insults Jeffrey’s mother. How could she have avoided doing that? Why is it so hard to always say kind things about others?

*Later Skye confronts Mrs. Tifton about the unkind things Mrs. Tifton says about the Penderwicks and especially their mother. Not only does Skye not feel bad about the things she says to Mrs. Tifton but also feels justified. What is the difference?

*Mrs. Tifton seems self-centered and mean. Do you think she loves Jeffrey? Why or why not? She doesn’t listen very well, but do you think she wants Jeffrey to be happy? Why or why not?

*What do you think of Mr. Penderwick’s parenting style? Do you think he pays enough attention to what his girls are doing? Why or why not?

*Even though the girls have very different personalities and often don’t agree with each other, they work together well. How does your family work together? Do the kids have meetings? Does the entire family meet to decide important things that concern everyone? How can you help your family work together well?

*All of the girls do something embarrassing from saying unkind things, to letting the rabbit out, to having a crush. Think of a time you have done something embarrassing. What can you do to avoid it in the future? Do you think doing embarrassing things is part of learning and growing up? Why or why not?

*The sisters talked of their time at Arundel for years. Think of a vacation or outing you’ve had with your family that is particularly memorable. What makes it so memorable?


Find this book at your local library or buy it here. This links to a paperback book.

I went back and forth between rating this a Medium or an Advanced chapter book. The story is medium, but Rosalind’s crush will be interesting to readers closer to her age. Nevertheless, I would read this to much younger listeners because they would enjoy the rest of the story enormously and would ignore the love interest.