While in Anacortes and Friday Harbor with my parents, husband, kids, and in-laws(!) last weekend, I also managed to read The Penderwicks, a delightful, charming, and heart-warming “Summer Tale about Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy” (as the subtitle puts it), which won a National Book Award for Young People’s Literature in 2005.
I wish more books for young people read like this one—sort of Anne of Green Gables meets Little Women, only in late 20th century Massachusetts. Heck, I wish more books for old people read like this one.
But once more, I found myself marveling that this book, another New York Times bestseller, did not follow the cardinal writing rule, “conflict on every page.”
Oh, there was plenty of conflict, and it was delightful to read, but it was not conflict as we usually think of it. It was quieter: burnt cookies, a summer crush, run-ins with snooty Mrs. Tifton (whom I delighted in despising), runaway bunnies, runaway bulls, runaway children, and a puking dog.
And while all those incidents were interesting, I was really reading because I cared about these characters. By page three, I had fallen in love with the Penderwick girls and their dad. I even liked their dog (and I’m not a big dog person, especially when they’re pukers). As I kept reading I came to love Cagney and Jeffrey and Churchie. And I loved loathing Mrs. Tifton and Mr. Dupree.
I loved getting to know these characters, loved watching them interact, loved seeing what they were going to do next.
I wanted to be with them, and that desire is what kept me reading—262 pages in two days.
I wanted to be with them. Is there any higher compliment I can pay?