I read this last night and slept on it. I actually looked up the page count for all the other books, because it felt a little light to me. Penderwicks in Spring is the longest of the series, which probably explains why this felt a little on the short side, but it is not the shortest. A few reviewers over at Goodreads are really upset about the status of the oldest Penderwick siblings. I agree that it would be *nice* to have more details, but I think that's more of a testimony to Birdsall writing beautiful characters readers connected with. The reality is, these books were always focused on life as seen through the eyes of children, and children don't always have all the details about grown up lives. Rosalind, Skye, Jane, and Jeffrey are adults now. While some of Birdsall's choices are a little surprising and not fleshed out in a whole lot of detail, I think that's kind of how it is for kids. They kind of pick up on some things, know which people they see more, and then they get told to leave the room so grownups can talk, which happens to Lydia.
I thought the parts where Batty returns to Arundel with fuzzy memories (and maybe none at all) beautifully captured the magic of childhood. The events of that first summer aren't crystal clear to her, but they left a permanent imprint and brought Jeffrey into their extended family. The important fact is that Jeffrey is still part of the Penderwick clan as honorary brother. I also loved how Arundel was described as this mythical place in Penderwick lore, not quite real to Lydia. Isn't that exactly how places from childhood are?
I knocked it down a star because while I liked the book, I had to take some time to process through my disappointments. It really did feel light...the adventures just didn't have the depth of the ones in the others. That might have to do more with Lydia being the only Penderwick in focus, whereas the other books had much interactions among more young Penderwicks. The Penderwicks have grown and while Lydia still has loving relationships w/her siblings, her adventures are just different because she is so much younger than them. Why couldn't it have been that they ALL were at Arundel together with messes in the kitchen and more music jams? That said, there were some lovely new characters. Enough information was given to whet your appetite. A lot of the disappointment is in not knowing more, but again...I think that's appropriate because of how we limit what children are allowed to know. Also, Lydia would have been 3 - 7 years old during a lot of the time Rosalind, Skye, Jane, and Jeffrey were going through their college years and growing into adults, and Lydia would have been too young to remember much anyway. This is just reinforced by how Batty admits she isn't sure if her memories from Arundel are real at first, or derived from the stories the older ones would tell.
I will say that I do like how Lydia knows Skye as a smiling, more relaxed and loving sister. I think that shows the events in Penderwicks in Spring had a lasting impact on Skye and she was able to mature and grow, forming a better bond w/Batty along the way.
I think this might have been the only book w/no mention of Penderwick family honor?? And I wish there was more detail on the wedding, but alas...it was kind of like Martin and Iantha's wedding. But maybe that's what it's like for a kid. A lot of hubbub and excitement leading up to the wedding, but they don't care for speeches, dances, what the food was like. Most of that is of no consequence to a child.
Not a bad ending, but not my favorite of the series.
Editing to add:
I think we have become accustomed to series following a group of characters as they age. Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, Harry Potter... Birdsall’s series seemed to start that way, but you really understand that this series is fundamentally different in this book. Some of her intention was clarified in Penderwicks in Spring, when you only caught snippets of the older ones’ lives when the younger ones happened to be around and overhear. This is magnified even more in Penderwicks at Last.
I would say this is similar to Rainbow Valley and Rilla of Ingleside for the Anne of Green Gables series, where you don’t get a lot of detail on grown up Anne and Gilbert anymore. Of course, we got to follow those two into adulthood, so that shift wasn’t so difficult to bear. It may be harder for some Penderwicks fans than others to accept Birdsall’s literary choices in this book.
- Paperback: 256 pages
- Publisher: RHUS CHILDREN'S BOOKS; Reprint edition (14 May 2019)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0385755694
- ISBN-13: 978-0385755696
- Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 1.9 x 19.4 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 222 g
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 221,677 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)