The Penderwicks at Last

Dear Fellow Lovers of Good Books, I have sad and happy news.

Sadly, the Penderwicks series (previously discussed here) has come to an end. In happy news, that ending is lovable, perfect, and filled with a joy you can clasp right close to you and never let go.

The characters aren’t gone and finished and done with: Jeanne Birdsall is too wise an author to end her books with utmost finality. I don’t mean to say she leaves room for the novels to continue (she sounds pretty final on that point, probably a wise choice), but that the ending doesn’t feel like a pat “happily ever after.” Rather, it’s left with musings over what’s going to happen next– and, best of all, what happens next is up to your imagination.

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I’m writing ever so briefly about this for two reasons: a) My previous post says pretty much everything that I need to say about how wonderful these books are, so I don’t need to go on at length, but b) I do want to remind you of this series, let you know that it continues beautifully to the very end, and, really, encourage you to give it a shot.

What can you expect from this series as a whole? I’d say what you get is affirmation. Perhaps another word, maybe a better one, is reassurance. People aren’t really all that bad, you come away thinking. Even when someone is all that bad, they’re so outnumbered by the tight loving-kindness of a basically good family that the selfishness or nastiness is completely counter-balanced. Negativity can never win.

I’m struggling here not to give away any of the plot twists, but I’ll say that even the Penderwicks aren’t perfect. The children overstep, they come up with plans which are less than totally advisable, and yet the basic decency underlying everything their family has to offer results in teachable moments rather than leading to descents into harrowing negativity. Even the harshest moments are handled so deftly and sensitively by Jeanne Birdsall that negativity never really gets a grip on the story. And in an era of the grim and the gritty, I appreciate this reassuring, life-affirming sort of text.

So, yes, I encourage you to go forth and read! Read about the Penderwicks and your life will be just a little stauncher, a little more committed to life and beauty and music. Enjoy it– I know I did!

And, because I can’t resist: yes, I went to Jeanne Birdsall’s event and signing hosted by the Children’s Book Shop (I’m so glad I live near there now!). And, dork that I am, I got my picture taken with her. It’s terribly unflattering of both of us, but I don’t care. Here’s evidence that I met and spoke with Jeanne Birdsall, author of the Penderwicks. I couldn’t be happier, so who cares about whatever the hell’s going on with my chin(s???) and hair!

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Jeanne Birdsall? Thank you for writing. I hope that you continue to write with joy, sensitivity, and hope. I love your books, and will read them all, forever. I can’t wait until my Changeling is old enough to read them with me.

The rest of you? Really, I don’t know what else I can say. Go forth and read!

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SWAN revisited

Hi! I don’t have a long post for you today, or even a new book. Frankly, I’m just having trouble switching my brain from “moving into a new house” to “writing a dissertation” mode, and I need your help to get my writing muscles moving. Also, I’m just so excited about the book I just bought– even though I’ve bought it, oh, about a thousand times so far.

Which book? Swan, by Laurel Snyder. (Chronicle Books link, which is great, they have excellent service,  but I got mine through my beloved Children’s Book Shop.)

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It’s a book which is precious to me for several reasons, and I just wanted to share those reasons with you:

  • First of all, it’s the first book I wrote about on this blog: Swan. I hate reading over my own writing– I’m always convinced that it’s going to have turned into a rotting slag heap of compost since the last time I looked at it– but here I have to say two things: 1) I still agree with myself: it’s a book which elicits a lot of emotion in adults as well as children; 2) I feel like the start of blogging here was good for me, and I’m glad that I started with such a great book.
  • I didn’t mention this back in my old entry, but I love ballet. The Changeling started ballet lessons this past year, and she loves it, too. She loves watching it, reading about it, dancing it– it’s become a point of bonding between us, and that makes me happy. This book is part of that bonding, and that means it feels somehow intimate to me, even though I’ve shared it with about a million other people in the past couple of years.
  • The book isn’t just about ballet or talent or genius or hard work: it’s about leaving the world a better and more beautiful place– which is precisely what this book does, incidentally.

The reason I revisited this book was because my Changeling is just finishing up her year’s ballet lessons, and I thought it would be nice to give her teacher a copy. I still think so. We love Miss Rachel, and she’s turned my Changeling into a happy little dancer. I think Swan is going to make her happy, too. Chronicle Books? You done good, and the pairing of Laurel Snyder and Julie Morstad was absolutely perfect.