The Penderwicks

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

This summer the Penderwick sisters have a wonderful surprise: a holiday on the grounds of a beautiful estate called Arundel. Soon they are busy discovering the summertime magic of Arundel’s sprawling gardens, treasure-filled attic, tame rabbits, and the cook who makes the best gingerbread in Massachusetts. But the best discovery of all is Jeffrey Tifton, son of Arundel’s owner, who quickly proves to be the perfect companion for their adventures.

The icy-hearted Mrs. Tifton is not as pleased with the Penderwicks as Jeffrey is, though, and warns the new friends to stay out of trouble. Which, of course, they will—won’t they? One thing’s for sure: it will be a summer the Penderwicks will never forget.

Deliciously nostalgic and quaintly witty, this is a story as breezy and carefree as a summer day.

Discussion Questions

  1. What makes the story have an "old fashioned" feel? From the cover, did you think this might be an old-fashioned story that took place a long time ago? What clues did you have about when this story is set? In what year do you think that this book is supposed to take place?
  2. Why is Jeffrey happier after the Penderwicks arrive? Do you think his life will be different in the future even after they go back home? What do you think will happen to Jeffrey? Will the girls stay in touch with him?
  3. Was it a good idea or a bad idea for Jeffrey to run away?
  4. Why do you suppose Skye is always saying and doing things that get her in trouble?
  5. Hound is as much as part of the family as any of the sisters. What ways might the stories have been different if Hound hadn't been with the girls?
  6. Why do you think Mr. Penderwick speaks Latin all the time, even if the girls don't understand him? Is Mr. Penderwick a good father?
  7. How many brothers and sisters do you have? Do you all ever act like the Penderwicks? In what ways? Which of the four sisters do you like the best? Which one is most like you?
  8. What do you think Batty thinks about being the youngest Penderwick? In what ways is she not like her older sisters? Since Batty seems to get into bad situations when she is left alone, do you think the older Penderwicks should keep a better eye on her? Why do you suppose they don't?
  9. Why do you think Batty wore wings in the first place? And why do you think she gave them to Jeffrey?
  10. Why do you suppose that the mothers in stories are often gone? Does it make you sad? How would the book have been different if their mother had been alive?
  11. Yaz and Carla, the rabbits, are a part of the subtitle on the cover, but how important are they in the story? Did you at first think, like the Penderwicks did, that Hound the dog had killed Yaz the rabbit?
  12. When Jane, the imaginative writer, shows her book to Dexter Dupree, he is extremely rude to her. Even though he said terrible things, should she have begun ripping up her hard work because of what one person said?
  13. It's pretty obvious how Rosalind feels about Cagney. How do you suppose Cagney feels about Rosalind?
  14. With all the adventures the Penderwicks have that end in disasters, do you think Mrs. Tifton is ever right for being so upset? Does Mrs. Tifton have any redeeming qualities?
  15. Do you think Mrs. Tifton will marry Dexter Dupree?
  16. Jeffrey is an only child. Do you suppose Mrs. Tifton would act differently if there were usually more children around?
  17. Jane has a great imagination. Do you think she thinks her sisters are unimaginative? Why or why not?
  18. Do you think Rosalind likes being the oldest and most responsible Penderwick? Why or why not?
  19. Would you like a formal birthday party like Jeffrey's, where everyone had to dress up? What do you suppose life is like for Jeffrey inside such a fancy house? Do you think he gets to play much? Or make messes? Or ever have fun?