Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Happy book birthday to The Penderwicks in Spring!

I'm having a difficult time believing it is the fifth day of spring. Is that snow falling and falling and falling outside my window? Is Elsa playing a trick on me? 

If you're in a similar situation, I know what will make you feel better. Run out to your local independent bookshop and buy a copy (or 10) of The Penderwicks in Spring. It will help you get excited about spring and transport you to a happy place. You'll thank me later! 

National Book Award winner Jeanne Birdsall dropped by to celebrate The Penderwicks in Spring. I wrote the words in red, and she wrote the words in black. Thank you, Jeanne! 

Filmed on December 1, 2014 

The Penderwicks are back! The Penderwicks in Spring tells the story of music, loyalty, secrets, and more music. Introduced is the newest Penderwick, toddler Lydia, who drives the rest of the family nuts. Especially Ben, who would have preferred to end up with at least one brother, for heaven’s sake.

I hope Nick Geiger comes across as one of the big hearts at the center of the book. While I was writing The Penderwicks in Spring, one of my nephews, also named Nick, did two tours with the Army in Afghanistan. Keeping Nick Geiger safe helped calm my fears for my nephew. I’m delighted to report that the real Nick is now indeed safe, stationed in Texas, and has a cool dog named Clyde.

When I was Batty’s age  I was in fifth grade, the best of all my years at school. (Thank you, Miss Farrell.) I was devouring Louisa May Alcott’s books, had crushes on a series of boys, and got to star in the class play—the literal heroine in an old-fashioned melodrama. Duncan Seidel was the hero, and Peter Simpson the villain. Peter made an excellent villain. During one performance, when I had to throw him the mortgage money, my too enthusiastic toss sent the packet flying off the stage and into the audience. “D—m you,” he hissed at me, still in character, and leaped off the stage to retrieve it. True genius.

Did you know that I named Gardam Street, where the Penderwicks live, after Jane Gardam, an English author? The writer Patricia MacLachlan recommended her books to me, and now I’m recommending them to everyone else. Also, I named Cameron, the Penderwicks’ town, after Julia Margaret Cameron, a 19th century photographer who was a big influence on me back when I was still a serious photographer. Cameron also happened to be Virginia Woolf’s great-aunt, but that isn’t why I like her. (True confessions: I’m not much for the Modernists.)

Broadside Bookshop is my favorite bookstore in the world not just because I can walk to it from my house (everyone should have a bookstore around the corner), but because the people who work there are funny, friendly and know exactly what books I like best. Mr. Schu, I know why you’re asking—I slipped it into The Penderwicks in Spring! Batty loves it there, too.

School libraries are not just rooms where books are kept on shelves, but welcoming worlds that call out to be visited and wandered through. Reading isn’t an instinctive skill. It must be nurtured and, above all else, modeled. The best school librarians (I’m looking at you, Mr. Schu) do this with great skill and dedication, enriching many children’s lives along the way.

Reading is my haven and my joy. As soon as I learned how to read, books became a large and vital part of my everyday life. On the one hand I had reality—school, my friends, my family—and on the other, balancing all that, whatever book I was reading at any given moment. I went from book to book to book, with never a space in between. Even now, I don’t like the feeling of being without a book. As soon as I finish one, I pluck the next from my over-flowing shelves, to have it waiting for me, pulsing with words and characters, with a different world.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me if I can sing! No, alas, not at all. I’ve always had the soul of a singer, but not the pipes. I’m living my dream through Batty.

Borrow The Penderwicks in Spring from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 


  1. This post made me so happy! Bought my copy on Sunday and had it finished before bed! It is wonderful and brilliant and kind! Yay for the Penderwicks!! Yay for Jeanne Birdsall! Such wonderful and wonderfully written, books!

  2. Just got mine today! HUGE Penderwicks fan, as is my 13 yr old daughter. We have all of the audiobooks too, and she's an only child, but it's as if Rosalind, Skye, Jane & Batty are her very own sisters (and Hound is as beloved as Becca:) ) Thanks for the great interview! We went to the signing for Point Mouette three years ago when she talked about this one being from Batty's POV--can't wait to read it!

  3. Eee! I'm squeeing. The Penderwicks are the Melendy books of the 21st century.