The four Penderwick girls – Rosalind, Skye, Jane, and little Batty – are back home, having returned from an amazing summer vacation (see The Penderwicks). But all is not calm in the Penderwick household: Aunt Claire has arrived, and while this is normally a highly anticipated event, this time she has brought along news that no one is ready to hear: when their mother died four years ago, she left a letter to Mr. Penderwick insisting that he begin dating again. Despite their shy father’s earnest protests, Aunt Claire is determined to carry out the late Mrs. Penderwick’s wishes, and insists that he go on several blind dates.
None of the girls are happy about the situation, but Rosalind in particular – the normally placid and responsible Rosalind – is devastated. She convinces the other girls to participate in the Save Daddy Plan, determined that their father should not be forced date or – horrors! – marry any other woman. In the meantime, life goes on as usual in the Penderwick household, which means that there are plenty of scrapes and domestic adventures for all four girls, from swapping homework to stage fright to the increasingly erratic behavior of next-door-neighbor Tommy.
This is another pleasant, comforting, and satisfying book about a happy and functional family. I’ve heard many people say that they thought this was a stronger book than its predecessor, but I have to disagree. I predicted all of the major plot points as soon as they (or their characters) were introduced. I also felt the But Man subplot (which I also successfully predicted well before the “surprise” denouement) was totally unnecessary and distracting; the book would have been stronger without it, and there were certainly many other directions the author could have gone in to include a special Batty plotline. That being said, I still very much enjoyed the book, and am looking forward to the next in the series. Wikipedia states that there are supposedly going to be five books in the Penderwick chronicles, so we have another three to eagerly await.
Notes on the cover: The blue silhouettes from the first book are back, which creates a nice sense of continuity and attachment with the previous novel. It’s not a technique that gets used a lot these days, so it stands out. I like this cover a bit better, since it showcases all of the main child characters, including Tommy Geiger. For some reason it really bugs me that the title is left-justified. I would have centered the words, I think, but I doubt any children are going to not pick the book up simply because the font isn’t quite right…