The Penderwicks on Gardam Street

The Penderwicks on Gardam Street, the sequel to the delightful The Penderwicks, gives us some insight into what life is like for the lovely Penderwick family when they’re at home. We get more insight into Martin Penderwick (always called “Mr. Penderwick in the text, like the reader is friends with the girls and he’s very much the father of friends) and we meet people from the neighborhood as well as Aunt Claire—Mr. Penderwick’s sister and a close friend of the girls’ mother, Elizabeth Penderwick.

The center of the story is that Elizabeth wrote a letter before she died and she gave it to Claire to give to Martin four years after her death. Claire delivers the letter which encourages Martin to start dating. All of the Penderwicks, Mr. Penderwick included, are horrified by this idea. Aunt Claire gets him to promise that he’ll go on a few dates and at least give it a try. The girls decide that they should set him up with the most horrible people they can find to ensure that he won’t marry any of them.

I continue to adore the Penderwicks. The stories are sweet and wonderful; they have plenty of drama but aren’t overwrought. They always stays within the realm of reality on some level—no, I don’t know anyone quite like the Penderwicks, but they at least feel like they exist in a world I recognize.

SPOILER ALERT: Things you might want to know before suggesting this to your kid


Previous deaths and learning how to move past them play a large role in this book.

The story opens with a more detailed flashback of Batty’s birth and Elizatbeth’s death from cancer soon after. The Penderwicks (the girls and father included) are all dealing just fine, thank you, as long as nothing changes. But when Claire shares the letter from Elizabeth encouraging Martin to move on, it causes a bit of a crisis.

When Claire obviously has important news to share (it’s the letter) the girls worry that she’s dying. They point out that even those who don’t seem sick can be dying.

The Penderwicks get new next door neighbors—Iantha, who is a professor, and her toddler son, Ben. Iantha’s husband was killed by a drunk driver before Ben was born.

Handling Family Responsibilities

Rosalind has played the role of mother for many years, and overall she’s done it happily. When she learns about the letter and starts thinking about a stepmother, she freaks out. Her sisters hardly know what to do with themselves when Rosalind falls apart, because it’s just not something she does. At one point she smashes a pan of brownies because her father went out on a good date.

Skye is working on controlling her temper, but when someone on an opposing soccer team bullies Jane, Skye totally loses her temper and the game devolves into violence. Although it doesn’t seem good that the game is called due to fighting, Skye standing up for her sister is a good thing.


Mr. Penderwick starts dating “Marianne Dashwood” to keep people from setting him up on dates. It turns out that he’s actually just going to his office to read Sense & Sensibility—Marianne Dashwood is one of the characters.

Jane has trouble reining in her flights of fancy, while Skye has trouble being creative, and this starts affecting their school work. They get a grand plan—Skye writes a factual paper for Jane who in turn writes a play for Skye. When the play is chosen to be the school play, everything starts spiraling out of control. It all turns out ok in the end, and the girls have to admit to their teachers what they did. There are consequences, but they aren’t as dire as the girls feared—it’s better to tell the truth than to keep secrets like that.

To get Iantha and Martin to go to a fancy shindig together, the girls remove the battery from one of the cars. They eventually come clean about it.

Batty stows away in the car to see where her father goes. But she buckles herself into her car seat—even when she’s being clandestine, she can’t imagine getting into the car unsafely. She covers herself with a blanket. It turns out that her father knew all along, but he reminds her that if he hadn’t told her sisters that Batty was with him, they would have been really worried. I think he handles it very well.


Mr. Penderwick goes on multiple terrible dates. Eventually, he and Iantha fall in love and get married. The perfect match has been right next door all along.

Tommy, one of the neighborhood boys that the Penderwick girls have been friends with forever, starts dating an 8th grader (he’s in 7th grade, like Rosalind). She’s very controlling and possessive, and eventually he realizes this isn’t worth it. Through this disaster, Rosalind realizes that she likes Tommy as more than a friend, and he’s had a crush on her for quite a while. He and Rosalind agree that they will start dating when they turn 13. There’s potential for love triangles among siblings, but I’m grateful the book doesn’t go there.


This is the second book in The Penderwicks series, and it’s wonderful. Adults who fondly remember Little Women and other classic kids’ books will enjoy this series which has a similar feel but in a modern setting. Although the Penderwicks are all girls (until Ben joins the family) there’s no reason it wouldn’t appeal to boys as well. It’s appropriate as a read aloud to most ages, and good for precocious readers ages 8 and up. You don’t have to read the books in order, but it helps.


The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall
Published in 2008 by Yearling
Sequel to The Penderwicks, followed by The Penderwicks at Point Mouette
Read our family copy

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