Monday, January 25, 2010

Sometimes It's Nice to Have Parents Around

Jeanne Birdsall's The Penderwicks on Gardam Street, the follow-up to The Penderwicks, is just as good as the original. There's not an ounce of cynicism in this story, nor is it saccarine. Continuing about a month after the four Penderwick girls and their father return from their summer vacation, this story chronicles the widowed Mr. Penderwick's awkward attempts at dating, and Rosalind, Skye, Jane, and Batty's plot to avoid a potential wicked stepmother. The book had me nearly in tears twice: in the prologue, which is a brief flashback to Mrs. Penderwick's last few days in the hospital, and in the following excerpt, which shows 4-year-old Batty and her dog spying on the neighbors (it certainly makes me feel a little extra mushy that the baby's name is Ben). If Batty's quiet yearning for a mom doesn't get you a little choked up, you might have been born without a soul.

They tiptoed to the forsythia border and lowered themselves quietly to the ground. Through the bottom branches of the bushes they could see the feet of the neighbors: little baby feet in red sneakers, zigzaging tipsily around the yard, and grown-up lady feet in white sneakers, following behind.
"Duck, duck, duck!" Ben was calling happily, his feet zigging and zagging even farther.
"Oh, Mr. Silliness," laughed his mother, and kept on chasing.
Batty thought Iantha had a nice voice and an even nicer laugh. It was hard to tell about Ben's voice, since he only kept saying "duck."
Now the little red sneakers stumbled, and suddenly there was an entire Ben in view. Batty pulled herself and Hound back a bit, but before the baby could notice them his mother had scooped him off the ground.
"Oh, dear, are you hurt, my Ben, my pumpkin, my lumpkin, darling Ben?"
Batty caught her breath. Yes, it was a truly extra-nice voice.
"My pumpkin, my lumpkin, darling Batty," she whispered to herself.
Ben, not hurt at all, was soon wriggling out of his mother's arms, and then all the feet disappeared and the voices stopped, and Batty knew that they'd gone back into their house.
"My pumpkin, my lumpkin, darling Batty." This time she made her voice lower, so that it would sound more like Iantha's voice.

1 comment:

Jackamo said...

I'm looking forward to reading these books. They sound all sunshiney...if you know what I mean.