Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Penderwicks at Point Mouette

The Penderwicks at Point Mouette

Jeanne Birdsall
Fiction  Series
For ages 8 to 12
Random House, 2011   ISBN: 978-0375858512

For the first time in their lives, the four Penderwick sisters are going to be “torn apart.” Their father and his new wife have already left for their London honeymoon, taking their little brother Ben with them. Soon the eldest Penderwick, Rosalind, will be going to New Jersey to spend two weeks with her friend Anna. Skye, Jane and Batty will be going to spend two weeks in Maine with their Aunt Claire.

Ever since their mother died five years ago Rosalind has taken on the burden of watching over her sisters, especially little Batty, who is now five. Rosalind loves Skye and Jane dearly but she is rather concerned that they will not be able to care for Batty and that something dreadful will happen to the little girl while they are Maine. As Skye is the second oldest sister, she is the one who is going to have to be the OAP – Oldest Available Penderwick – during the Maine vacation. Before she leaves for New Jersey, Rosalind gives Skye all kinds of pointers, and she cites rules that she expects Skye to remember at all times.

Rosalind may be anxious about how Skye will fare as the OAP, but she is nowhere near as anxious as Skye is herself. Skye has never really paid attention to all the things Rosalind does, and therefore she does not know the multitude of domestic tips and tricks that her bigger sister has up her sleeve. For days Skye has been writing down notes so that she won’t forget all the things that Rosalind tells her. Hopefully with her notes in hand she will be able to get Batty through the two weeks without losing her or somehow breaking her.

Unfortunately, on the very first day at Point Mouette, Skye loses her notes. She is convinced that she is now going to make a terrible mess of things, and certainly several things do go rather wrong very soon after they arrive. First Aunt Claire badly sprains her ankle, which means that the children are going to have to do all the shopping the cooking, and that Aunt Claire will not be able to help take care of Batty. Then Jane manages to hit herself in the nose with a rock and injures herself.

Skye blames herself for these two rather distressing events, even though she really could not have prevented either one. She works herself into a state about trying to control everything, trying to keep everyone safe. In then end Jeffrey (who has come to stay with them) has to appoint himself the temporary OAP and he forces Skye to calm down.

Despite these setbacks, and Skye’s worries, the sisters and Jeffrey do have wonderful times, as well as difficult ones. Jeffrey starts teaching Batty about music, which she takes to like a duck to water. He also makes friends with the neighbor, who just happens to be a wonderful musician. The neighbor, Alec, takes them all for an outing in a boat, and he also does all he can to help keep Aunt Claire entertained and comfortable. He is a delightful man who seems to completely understand Jeffrey’s passion for music, and he supports Batty’s budding interest in learning how to play the piano. As the days settle into a rhythm, it seems as if the Maine vacation is going to be a success, even if Aunt Claire is on crutches, and even if Jane does seem to be falling for a local boy. Then everything is turned upside down and Skye and her sisters have a real reason to be worried.

In this third Penderwick novel, the sisters, their friends and their family members once again embark on an adventure that is full of moments of joy, laughter, disaster, and poignancy. Readers will laugh at the amusing things that happen, and then find themselves reaching for the nearest hanky when troubles surface that cause heartache and confusion.