Excerpt from The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Penderwicks

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

By Jeanne Birdsall

The Penderwicks
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  • Hardcover: Jun 2005,
    272 pages.
    Paperback: Mar 2007,
    272 pages.

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"Didn't we see Framley a while ago? And look," she said, pointing out the window. "We've been past those cows before."

"Good eyes, Rosy," he said. "But weren't we going in the other direction last time? Maybe this way will do the trick."

"No, because all we saw along here were more cow fields, remember?"

"Oh, yes." Mr. Penderwick stopped the car, turned it around, and went back the other way.

"We need to find someone who can give us directions," said Rosalind.

"We need to find a helicopter that can airlift us out of here," said Skye. "And keep your stupid wings to yourself!" She was talking to Batty, who, as always, was wearing her beloved orange-and-black butterfly wings.

"They're not stupid," said Batty.

"Woof," said Hound from his place among the boxes and suitcases in the very back of the car. He took Batty's side in every discussion.

"Lost and weary, the brave explorers and their faithful beast argued among themselves. Only Sabrina Starr remained calm," said Jane. Sabrina Starr was the heroine of books that Jane wrote. She rescued things. In the first book, it was a cricket. Then came Sabrina Starr Rescues a Baby Sparrow, Sabrina Starr Rescues a Turtle, and, most recently, Sabrina Starr Rescues a Groundhog. Rosalind knew that Jane was looking for ideas on what Sabrina should rescue next. Skye had suggested a man-eating crocodile, who would devour the heroine and put an end to the series, but the rest of the family had shouted her down. They enjoyed Jane's books.

There was a loud oomph in the backseat. Rosalind glanced around to make sure violence hadn't broken out, but it was only Batty struggling with her car seat--she was trying to twist herself backward to see Hound. Jane was jotting in her favorite blue notebook. So they were both all right. But Skye was blowing out her cheeks and imitating a fish, which meant she was even more bored than Rosalind had feared. They'd better find this cottage soon.

Then Rosalind spotted the truck pulled over by the side of the road. "Stop, Daddy! Maybe we can get directions."

Mr. Penderwick pulled over and Rosalind got out of the car. She now saw that the truck had TOMATOES painted in large letters on each of its doors. Next to the truck was a wooden table piled high with fat red tomatoes and, behind the table, an old man wearing worn blue jeans and a green shirt with Harry's Tomatoes embroidered across the pocket.

"Tomatoes?" he asked.

"Ask if they're magic tomatoes," Rosalind heard. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Skye hauling Jane back in through the car window.

"My younger sisters," said Rosalind apologetically to the old man.

"Had six of 'em myself."

Rosalind tried to imagine having six younger sisters, but she kept coming up with each of her sisters turned into twins. She shuddered and said, "Your tomatoes look delicious, but what I really need is directions. We're looking for number eleven Stafford Street."

"Arundel?"

"I don't know about any Arundel. We're supposed to be renting a cottage at that address."

"That's Arundel, Mrs. Tifton's place. Beautiful woman. Snooty as all get-out, too."

"Oh, dear."

"You'll be fine. There are a couple of nice surprises over there. You're going to have to keep that blond one under control, though," he said, nodding toward the car, where Skye and Jane were now leaning out of the window together, listening. Muffled complaints could be heard from Batty, who was being squashed.

"Why me?" called Skye.

The man winked at Rosalind. "I can always spot the troublemakers. I was one myself. Now, tell your dad to go down this road a little ways, take the first left, then a quick right, and look for number eleven."

"Thank you," said Rosalind, and turned to go.

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Excerpted from The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall Copyright © 2005 by Jeanne Birdsall. Excerpted by permission of Knopf Books for Young Readers, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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