It is time once again to open the hallowed halls of the Slatebreaker All Stars Hall of Fame. Today is a very special occasion. We are honoring a family of four Slatebreaking sisters who consistently shatter slates and steal our hearts: The Penderwicks. Don’t worry, we will honor each of them individually, because we all know that asking those four to share an award would lead to some inevitable bickering.
Rosalind Penderwick: Rosalind, the oldest Penderwick, is a Slatebreaker All Star because she consistently shows surprising maturity and wisdom for her young age. Even though she conforms to “girly” behaviors more than the other Penderwick sisters (she likes dressing up, gets all aflutter about certain boys, and bakes like a pro), she is still assertive and smart and kicks butt at basketball. After Mrs. Penderwick died, Rosalind decided that she was in charge of making sure the sisters stuck together and thrived as a family. She instituted the MOPS/MOOPS system (Meeting of Penderwick Sisters & Meeting of Older Penderwick Sisters) as well as the designation of OAP (Oldest Available Penderwick). She is also the brain behind the magnificent yet flawed “Save-Daddy” effort in The Penderwicks on Gardam Street. Any girl who can devise a plan like that is an All Star in my book, for sure.
Skye Penderwick: Skye is tough. She doesn’t take crap from anyone, and she doesn’t let anyone say anything bad about her sisters, either. She is the most aggressive of the Penderwick sisters. Skye defies stereotypes left and right. She is a soccer star, a whiz at math, and she doesn’t let her emotions get the best of her. My favorite Slatebreaking moment for Skye happens in the first book when Skye sneaks back to Arundel mansion to eavesdrop on Jeffrey and Mrs. Tifton. She hears Mrs. Tifton say some appalling things about her family. Instead of slinking away in shame, Skye bursts out of the shadows, tells Mrs. Tifton what’s what, and storms off to reassure her sisters how awesome they are. Skye was once my least favorite Penderwick sister because she and I are complete opposites, but she has grown on me, especially in the latest Penderwicks novel, The Penderwicks at Point Mouette. When Rosalind goes away on a trip and Skye is left as the OAP, she really comes into her own.
Jane Penderwick: The dreamiest of the Penderwick sisters, Jane is a Slatebreaking All Star because she has penned a series of compelling stories about Sabrina Starr before reaching adolescence. She also writes a smashing success of a play called Sisters and Sacrifice, and although it is initially part of a failed homework ruse that she cooks up with Skye, Jane eventually gets to take credit for her work and play the starring role just as melodramatically as she imagined it. Jane is surprisingly perceptive, although her sisters often write her off as lost in thought. My favorite Jane moment happens in The Penderwicks on Gardam Street when she argues against Rosalind’s “Save-Daddy” plan. She suggests that men have needs…because she read it somewhere in a magazine. Aha! Jane is less naïve than everyone thinks she is.
Batty Penderwick: Batty is, in my humble opinion, the most hilarious and charming Penderwick. Whenever the narrative focuses on Batty, that’s when I will be laughing out loud while reading. Batty is the most observant of the Penderwick sisters. She’s the one who watches Bug Man in The Penderwicks on Gardam Street, and she notices the little private behaviors that her sisters try to conceal from others. She figures things out before many of the other characters do, but she will keep it to herself until everyone else has caught up. Batty has her shining, Slatebreaking moment in The Penderwicks at Point Mouette when she surprises everyone with her untapped musical ability. I think that Batty is going to grow up into a very clever, very keen girl – I can’t wait to see what happens with her next.
Cheers to Jeanne Birdsall for writing not one, not two, not three, but FOUR Slatebreaking sisters into this series of novels. These girls are all so different yet all so admirable in the way they stand up for themselves and for their family. Almost any girl reader could pick up a Penderwicks novel and find a sister to connect with. The Penderwicks are a loveable and charming family of budding feminists. (And I can’t forget Mr. Penderwick and Jeffrey, who may be two of the first male characters I’ve read that I may be willing to categorize as Slatebreakers. But that’s another post…)
I am eagerly awaiting the fourth and fifth Penderwick books. What are your favorite Penderwick moments?