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Book Review

The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits and a Vary Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the first book in the "Penderwicks" series.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Penderwick sisters Rosalind, Skye, Jane and Batty arrive at their summer rental cottage with their dad and discover it's on the grounds of a lush estate called Arundel. Although they quickly learn to avoid Arundel's owner — an arrogant heiress and single mother named Mrs. Tifton — they meet other kind employees of the estate, and even befriend Mrs. Tifton's son, Jeffery. The children enjoy ballgames and other adventures, all the while trying to stay out of Mrs. Tifton's way. When Mrs. Tifton reaches her wit's end with the kids, she and her obnoxious boyfriend, Dexter, decide to send Jeffery to military school. As the girls prepare to leave for home, they wage one final campaign to save Jeffery from this unwelcome fate.

Christian Beliefs


Other Belief Systems


Authority Roles

Mr. Penderwick is a kind, involved father who encourages his girls in their individual activities and listens to their concerns, however silly they may seem. When Jeffery runs away and hides in the Penderwicks' cottage, Mr. Penderwick tries to facilitate conversation between Jeffery and his mother without belittling her authority. (However, one does ponder the whereabouts of Mr. Penderwick when little Batty nearly gets gored by a bull, wanders into the forest or roams the estate alone.) Mrs. Tifton and Dexter demonstrate consistently selfish and authoritarian parenting (although Mrs. Tifton softens a little in the end). Their haughty, nasty comments about the Penderwicks and their plot to send Jeffery away so they can get married make them poor — if not somewhat implausible — authority figures.


Characters use darn and heck a time or two.


Cagney, the gardener, kisses his girlfriend once, and no detail is provided. A few innocent "goodbye" kisses occur when the Penderwicks leave the cottage for their home.

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

You can request a review of a title you can't find at reviewrequests@family.org.

Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

9 to 12


Jeanne Birdsall






Record Label



Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Random House Children's Books


On Video

Year Published



National Book Award Winner for Young People's Literature, The New York Times Best Seller List, Publishers Weekly Best Children's Book, School Library Journal Best Book of the Year


We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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