When the Penderwick family’s usual vacation to Cape Cod is upended by the last minute sale of their usual vacation rental, sisters Rosalind, Skye, Jane and Batty find themselves packed tightly into the car with their widowed father and large, lovable (though prone to eating things that aren’t normally considered edible, like maps) Hound Penderwick and headed to a summer cottage in the Berkshire Mountains for three weeks in August.  When they arrive (after only a bit of getting lost), they discover that their cottage is on the grounds of Arundel, a gorgeous estate surrounded by lovely gardens owned by the aloof, enormously wealthy Mrs. Tifton.

When fanciful, aspiring writer Jane spies a boy in the window of the third floor, her two older sisters think she’s just making things up again.  But when Skye crashes into a boy in a tunnel she discovers in the hedge between the cottage and the big mansion while out exploring (and blurts out an unfortunately worded description of Mrs. Tifton), it turns out Jane was right – there is a boy living in the house.  His name is Jeffrey, he’s just Skye’s age, and he’s awfully lonely with Mrs. Tifton for a mother.  Fortunately for him, his summer is about to get a lot more exciting with the addition of the Penderwick sisters to Arundel.

With the final Penderwicks book, The Penderwicks at Last, just hitting the shelves this spring, I decided it was finally time to bump this family up to the top of my reading list – and my only question is, why didn’t someone make me read these books sooner?!!  This first in the series has everything I love – plenty of (mis)adventures, fast and firm friendships, wonderful animals (there’s not just Hound, but two rabbits, a daisy-eating bull, and even a couple of horses!), fiercely loyal sisters, a great dad, and a world – and family! – that I can’t wait to revisit in the second book.  The Penderwicks feels like all the best books I love wrapped up in one – timeless as Anne of Green Gables, The Secret Garden, and Little Women, but with a generous dash of modern zip.  Absolute perfection!