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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  • First Published:
    Jun 2005, 272 pages
    Mar 2007, 272 pages

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A Boy at the Window

For a long time after that summer, the four Penderwick sisters still talked of Arundel. Fate drove us there, Jane would say. No, it was the greedy landlord who sold our vacation house on Cape Cod, someone else would say, probably Skye.

Who knew which was right? But it was true that the beach house they usually rented had been sold at the last minute, and the Penderwicks were suddenly without summer plans. Mr. Penderwick called everywhere, but Cape Cod was booked solid, and his daughters were starting to think they would be spending their whole vacation at home in Cameron, Massachusetts. Not that they didn't love Cameron, but what is summer without a trip to somewhere special? Then, out of the blue, Mr. Penderwick heard through a friend of a friend about a cottage in the Berkshire Mountains. It had plenty of bedrooms and a big fenced-in pen for a dog--perfect for big, black, clumsy, lovable Hound Penderwick--and it was available to be rented for three weeks in August. Mr. Penderwick snatched it up, sight unseen.

He didn't know what he was getting us into, Batty would say. Rosalind always said, It's too bad Mommy never saw Arundel--she would have loved the gardens. And Jane would say, There are much better gardens in heaven. And Mommy will never have to bump into Mrs. Tifton in heaven, Skye added to make her sisters laugh. And laugh they would, and the talk would move on to other things, until the next time someone remembered Arundel.

But all that is in the future. When our story begins, Batty is still only four years old. Rosalind is twelve, Skye eleven, and Jane ten. They're in their car with Mr. Penderwick and Hound. The family is on the way to Arundel and, unfortunately, they're lost.

"It's Batty's fault," said Skye.

"It is not," said Batty.

"Of course it is," said Skye. "We wouldn't be lost if Hound hadn't eaten the map, and Hound wouldn't have eaten the map if you hadn't hidden your sandwich in it."

"Maybe it's fate that Hound ate the map. Maybe we'll discover something wonderful while we're lost," said Jane.

"We'll discover that when I'm in the backseat for too long with my younger sisters, I go insane and murder them," said Skye.

"Steady, troops," said Mr. Penderwick. "Rosalind, how about a game?"

"Let's do I Went to the Zoo and I Saw," said Rosalind. "I went to the zoo and I saw an anteater. Jane?"

"I went to the zoo and I saw an anteater and a buffalo," said Jane.

Batty was between Jane and Skye, so it was her turn next. "I went to the zoo and I saw an anteater, a buffalo, and a cangaroo."

"Kangaroo starts with a k, not a c," said Skye.

"It does not. It starts with a c, like cat," said Batty.

"Just take your turn, Skye," said Rosalind.

"There's no point in playing if we don't do it right."

Rosalind, who was sitting in the front seat with Mr. Penderwick, turned around and gave Skye her oldest-sister glare. It wouldn't do much, Rosalind knew. After all, Skye was only one year younger than she was. But it might quiet her long enough for Rosalind to concentrate on where they were going. They really were badly lost. This trip should have taken an hour and a half, and already they'd been on the road for three. Rosalind looked over at her father in the driver's seat. His glasses were slipping down his nose and he was humming his favorite Beethoven symphony, the one about spring. Rosalind knew this meant he was thinking about plants--he was a professor of botany--instead of about his driving.

"Daddy," she said, "what do you remember about the map?"

"We're supposed to go past a little town called Framley, then make a few turns and look for number eleven Stafford Street."

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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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