A FEW OTHER EVENTS FOR
- Happy birthday Beverly Brodsky (Buffalo) and Eileen Spinelli (The Best Story; Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch).
- Itâ€™s the birth date of Marchette Chute (1909-1994), Stories from Shakespeare, The Wonderful Winter, Beatrice S. de Regniers (1914-2000) May I Bring a Friend?, Matt Christopher (1917-1997), The Kid Who Only Hit Homers, and Diana Wynne Jones (1934-2011) Howlâ€™s Moving Castle, Castle in the Air.
- British Intelligence officer, T. E. Lawrence (1888-1935), known as Lawrence of Arabia, was born on this day.
- In 1954 the first edition of the magazine Sports Illustrated is published. Read Bring your â€śAâ€ť Game: A Young Athletes Guide to Mental Toughness by Jennifer L. Etnier.
- Itâ€™s National Tell a Joke Day. Read Pearl and Wagner: One Funny Day by Kate McMullan, illustrated by R. W. Alley.
As the Almanac has evolved, frequently I get ideas, directly or indirectly, from the readers of this column. Every year John Schumaker, @MrSchuReads, takes a character from a beloved childrenâ€™s book, travels with it, and takes photos that he shares on his website. You can see his video of his trip with year on Read, Watch, Connect. As John was tweeting about his forthcoming trip, I asked myself the question, â€śWho would I want to be on vacation with?â€ť And the answer came immediately. In fact, Jeanne Birdsallâ€™s The Penderwicks takes place in three weeks in August in a perfect vacation spot: Massachusettsâ€™ Berkshire Mountains.
Meet the Penderwicks. As the subtitle states, this is A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy. Having lost their mother to cancer, the four Penderwick sisters work together and support their father, an absent-minded but loving, botanist. Because their vacation reservations on Cape Cod fell through, they take a chance on a cottage in the Berkshires and find that itâ€™s located on the grounds of the Arundel estate, a seemingly magical place with an evil owner and her very attractive son Jeffrey.
All of the sisters have distinct personalitiesâ€”Rosalind is the caretaker; Skye, math expert; Jane, the writer; and Batty, the youngest who loves her dog Hound. Hound feels equally enthusiastic about Batty. With secret hand signals, the Penderwick code of honor, and ties that bind them together, the girls quickly pull everyone on the estateâ€”including Jeffreyâ€”into their activities and mayhem.
Although their escapades seem innocent enoughâ€”interrupting a garden party with a soccer match, for instanceâ€”the book provides just enough intrigue, romance, excitement, and adventure to keep readers enthralled with this summer vacation. Those who have read Louisa May Alcott, E. Nesbitt, Eleanor Estes, and Edward Eager will see similarities to beloved books by these masters. But Birdsall has managed to make her family thoroughly modern and believable. With no tricks or flimflam, just good old-fashioned character development and writing, she builds a book that many readers list as one of their favorite of the last decade.
How I wish I could be there with them in Arundel. So Iâ€™ll see if the Penderwicks will stuff me into the back of the car with Hound. And in the meantime, Iâ€™m going to reread this glorious book and its sequels.
Hereâ€™s a passage from The Penderwicks:
Mr. Penderwick believed in long walks. One of his favorite sayings was, Take a walk, clear your head. Skye figured thatâ€™s why he had sent her on a walk with Jane, Jeffrey, and Batty while he and Rosalind aired out the kitchen. For Skye to clear her head and, maybe, too, for Skye and Jeffrey to clear the air between them. Not that Skye hadnâ€™t already apologized for calling Jeffrey rich and stuck-up and not that Jeffrey hadnâ€™t said that was all right, forget about it, but that was as far as they had gotten, conversationally, and since then, they had barely looked at each other.
So here was Skye, slogging along behind Jeffrey and Jane, listening to them gab on and on like old friends. It was enough to make a person sick.
Originally posted August 16, 2011. Updated for .