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Jeanne Birdsall (1951–) Biography - Personal, Addresses, Career, Honors Awards, Writings, Adaptations, Work in Progress, Sidelights

penderwicks children book sisters

Born 1951; Education: Attended Boston University, 1969; attended California College of Arts and Crafts, 1972.

Addresses

Agent—Barbara S. Kouts Literary Agency, P.O. Box 560, Bellport, NY 11713.

Career

Children's book author.

Honors Awards

Booklist Top Ten First Novels for Youth inclusion, School Library Journal Best Books designation, and National Book Award for Young People's Literature, all 2005, all for The Penderwicks.

Writings

The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy, Knopf (New York, NY), 2005.

Adaptations

The Penderwicks was adapted as an audiobook, Listening Library, 2006.

Work in Progress

A sequel to The Penderwicks.

Sidelights

Inspired by the novels of Edward Eager and E. Nesbit, Jeanne Birdsall's 2005 book The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy was described as "so retro, it's almost radical" by School Library Journal interviewer Rick Margolis. The story of four sisters who encounter adventure during a summer vacation spent on a cottage in the Berkshire mountains, the novel surprised many—including its author—when it earned first-time writer Birdsall the National Book Award for Young People's Literature in 2005.

Growing up in Strafford, Pennsylvania, Birdsall had a childhood that was scarred by alcoholism, and reading became a way for her to escape into another world. Her love of childrens' literature has stayed with her throughout her life. Although in her primary career she has excelled at the visual arts and has become well known for her art photography, at age forty-two she decided to fulfill a childhood goal, and channel some creative energy into writing a book that carried on the legacy of Nesbit and Eager. The Penderwicks was the result.

In The Penderwicks readers meet the Penderwick sisters: twelve-year-old Rosalind, eleven-year-old Skye, ten-year-old Jane, and four-year-old Batty. Together with their widowed father, a loving but rather absent-minded botany professor, the sisters and the family dog vacation in a cozy cottage on a country estate called Arundel hall. With few children living nearby, the girls soon befriend Jeffrey, the lonely son of the hall's upper-crusty owner, Mrs. Tifton. As the summer passes, the children encounter a series of adventures in which the magic comes from their imaginative view of their novel surroundings. Jeffrey's doomed fate—to be sent to a dreaded military school—is something to be liberated from, while the usually dependable Rosalind suddenly finds herself doe-eyed over the hall's handsome young gardener. Feisty Skye battles the restrictions placed on the children by the snooty Mrs. Tifton, while Jane narrates the children's activities with a wry yet humorously melodramatic eye.

Praise for The Penderwicks was wide-ranging, many critics acknowledging Birdsall's nod to a pantheon of writers that range from Louisa May Alcott and Frances Hodgson Burnett to Elizabeth Enright and Lemony Snicket. "Nostalgic but never stale, this fresh, satisfying novel is like a cool breeze on a summer's day," concluded Horn Book contributor Carolyn Shute, describing The Penderwicks as "suffused with affectionate humor." In her "timeless tale," Birdsall captures "spirited family dynamics and repartee," wrote a contributor to Publishers Weekly, the critic adding that the Penderwick sisters exhibit "delightfully diverse personalities" that "propel the plot." Praising the author's "superb writing style," B. Allison Gray wrote in School Library Journal that Birdsall's "wonderful, humorous book … features characters whom readers will immediately love," characters who engage in what a Kirkus Reviews writer described as "the sorts of lively plots and pastoral pastimes we don't read much about these days."

In her writing Birdsall openly pays homage to the books she loved as a child: escapist fiction featuring a band of curious children, a daunting challenge, and an everyday world that is transformed by the imagination into a place rife with the possibility of adventure. When she first approached publishers, she was advised to add a strong dose of adolescent strife, and make her story reflect what publishers maintained is demanded by modern readers weaned on so-called "problem novels." Fortunately, her manuscript fell into the hands of a more open-minded editor at Knopf, and The Penderwicks was ultimately published with relatively minor changes. As Birdsall explained to Rick Margolis in School Library Journal, "People are saying children who lead traumatic lives need books that validate the trauma, and I'm not saying they're wrong. But I also think because it worked so well for me, that there are children who lead difficult lives who need to understand that it doesn't have to be so bad. I also think that there are a lot of children out there who are still leading wonderful lives, and … they need to have something to read too."

Working on a sequel to her award-winning novel, Birdsall makes her home in Western Massachusetts, together with her husband and assorted cats, rabbits, a dog, and even a snail. As she remarked of writing in an interview on her home page: "Most authors do work very hard. I know that I do, partly because I write slowly, so I have to write almost every day to make any progress at all. But mostly I work hard because I'm happiest when I'm writing."

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, September, 2005, Timnah Card, review of The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy, p. 9.

Horn Book, July-August, 2005, Carolyn Shute, review of The Penderwicks, p. 465.

Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 2005, review of The Penderwicks, p. 633.

Publishers Weekly, July 25, 2005, review of The Pender-wicks, p. 77.

School Library Journal, July, 2005, B. Allison Gray, review of The Penderwicks, p. 95; January, 2006, Rick Margolis, "Seems like Old Times" (interview), p. 60.

ONLINE

Boston Globe Online, http://www.boston.com/ (December 12, 2005), David Mehegan, "A Storybook Beginning."

Jeanne Birdsall Home Page, http://www.jeannebirdsall.com (April 26, 2006).

R. Michelson Galleries Web site, http://www.rmichelson.com/ (April 26, 2006), "Jeanne Birdsall."

Tom Birdseye (1951-) Biography - Awards, Honors, Writings, Sidelights - Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Work in Progress [next] [back] Caroline Bingham (1962-) Biography - Personal, Addresses, Career, Writings

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about 6 years ago

Ms. Birdsall, your books are truly amazing! I am a senior in high school but am still enthralled by your books. I finished "The Penderwicks at Point Mouette" a few moments ago--WOW! It was fantastic. Please, more Jeffrey and Alec!

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over 6 years ago

dont let anybody tell you that your a bad writer because it is not true.

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over 6 years ago

this was a very good book i was happy to be introduced to it. P.S your a great writer.

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over 5 years ago

i am therteen and i love all of the penderwicks books i have parts memorised i like them becouse thay never get tiring i find out stuff i did not notice before

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over 2 years ago

Dear Ms. Birdsall,
I am in 5th grade and just started to read Penderwicks in spring. It is amazing. You truly are one of the best writers of all time. I enjoy writing and reading your books have helped me to write better. I heard there will be a 5th book and cannot wait!!

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almost 6 years ago

YOUARE MY ROMADOL!!!!!!!!!

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over 5 years ago

As of 2/12, this is slightly outdated. There are two more Penderwick books in print, and two more Penderwick books planned, I believe, for a series of 5 novels all told.
Thanks for the agent's address. There is no address for writing to her in Jeanne Birdsall's website as of 2/11/12.

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over 6 years ago

ccccccoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooofoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooocooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooocoooooooooooooooooooooocoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooocooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooocoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooouoooooooooooooooooouooooooooooooooooooooooooooooouoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooouoooooooooooooooooouuoooooooooooouuooooooooooooooouuoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooouooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo oooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

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over 6 years ago

u suck like hell

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over 6 years ago

u suck like hell

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about 1 year ago

Wonderful to read Jean Birdsall's MY FAVORITE PETS, about Gus and the sheep. Hysterical, and so very warm in its approach, with humor and a real feel for little kids, who often like things 'just because'. I will be including this book, a copy of which I found at discount, in a mailing packet being sent to an elementary school library I sponsor, down south. I know the youngsters will love it. Many thanks from NYC!

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over 1 year ago

Hello,
Our entire family loves the Penderwicks and we live through all their adventures and wish we could live in Grandham Street as well to meet them all.
However, we plea with you to PLEASE let Sky wake up and allow Jeffrey to be more than friends again. We fell in love with her in book three (if not already before and we love the rest of the bunch none the less) but were surprised with her in book four. PLEASE, do revive her charm from book three and give her an awesome friend: Jeffrey who really loves her and has to remain in the family. Of course, Batty could marry him but that, I think, would be too far fetched.
Anyways, we are looking forward to part 5 in anticipation.
Thanks a lot for writing these books - hope it ends well
Simone, Sam, Emily (10), Nils (8)and Matthi (6)

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about 2 years ago

Dear Miss Birdsall,
My name is Summer and I am a huge fan of your books. I read four of the Penderwicks in like 2 weeks! I'm in third grade and my teacher is Miss Stephanie Gibbons. She says she has met you and you are really nice (I believe her). My favorite book is 'The Penderwicks at Point Mouette'. Are you by any chance thinking about writing another one? I sooooo hope so. My favorite character is Jane. That was my grandmother's name and she kind of reminds me of her too.
Love, Summer

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about 2 years ago

Dear Ms. Birdall, YOUR BOOKS ARE AWESOME! I have read them over and over and every time the stories have kept me so engrossed that I have not been able to put them down!I own the first two books, have read the third on an e-book library, and I can't wait to read the fourth. I love all the Penderwick sisters and can relate to each one. Rosalind is very kind and generous, and I can see eye to eye with her as I too, am a firstborn with younger siblings. Skye makes me laugh out loud and I can so relate to her fierce and tomboyish nature. Jane and I are both immensly creative and love to dream big. And little Batty reminds me of the little kid in me. You are one of my favorite writers!

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about 2 years ago

Dear Ms. Birdsall,
i'm a very, very big fan of your Penderwick books and I would like to read more than five. Thank's a lot for your five Penderwick books. Best Regards from germany, Lea.

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about 2 years ago

Dear Ms. Birdsall,
i'm a very,very big fan of your Penderwick books and I would like to read more than the five you've written. Thank's a lot for your Penderwick books. Best Regards from germany, Lea.

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over 2 years ago

Dear Ms. Birdsall, I am 13 years old and absolutely love your books, and all the characters and always will! (well, except for the despicable ones, like Ms. T-D, Dexter, Dominic...) Thank you so much! I will now try to write to your agent and hope it gets forwarded to you.