If you have daughters, you likely know all about The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall. And its three sequels.
But if, like me, you only have boys at home, you may have missed this gem. The Penderwicks is sort of a modern-day Little Women about four sisters who take a summer vacation with their father to a cottage on the grounds of the Arundel estate in the Berkshires. There, they make friends with the son of the estate’s owner and have all manner of adventures.
This book has oodles of old-fashioned charm. A large part of the fun is getting to know the sisters, practical Rosalind (age 12), feisty Skye (age 11), imaginative Jane (age 10), and shy Batty (age 4), and their many traditions and family rules. (For example, the OAP–or Oldest Available Penderwick–is responsible for the younger ones.) I’m sure that if I’d read this book as a child, my sister and I would have played Penderwicks with the sisters next door.
Clayton Byrd Goes Underground is the latest book from the talented Rita Williams-Garcia. It’s about music and grief and family.
Clayton Byrd loves to spend time with his grandfather, Cool Papa Byrd. He especially loves to play his blues harp in Washington Square Park with Cool Papa and the Bluesmen.
When his grandfather dies unexpectedly, Clayton does not know how to deal with his loss. He’s in trouble at school and at odds with his mother (who is still angry at Cool Papa). So Clayton runs away to join the Bluesmen. But on the subway, he encounters a hip hop group and ends up in even more trouble.
I enjoyed this one more than Larrabee did. He liked the character of Clayton, but he says he prefers books with “fewer sad parts and more action.”
Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan is a sweet story about a Pakistani-American girl growing up in Milwaukee.
Amina Khokar is in middle school now, and it seems like everything is changing. At school, her best friend is talking about changing her name from Soojin to Susan. Worse yet, she’s befriended Emily, a girl who used to tease them. At home, her high school-age brother is clashing with their parents just when they’re preparing to welcome her conservative uncle from Pakistan for a long visit.
Amina loves to sing, but only her family and best friend know about her talent. The thought of performing a solo brings back memories of her stage fright during her second grade play. And she’s positively dreading the Quran recitation competition hosted by her mosque. When the mosque is vandalized, though, she must find her voice in order to help her community.
Amina’s Voice is about friendship and family, faith and forgiveness.
If you and your kids love science, I’m sure you’re familiar with Bill Nye the Science Guy. But did you know that he and Gregory Mone are writing a series of science adventure books for middle grade readers?
The first book is called Jack and the Geniuses: At the Bottom of the World and takes place in Antarctica. Larrabee and I both enjoyed the mix of mystery, adventure, humor, and real science and technology facts.
Twelve-year-old Jack lives with his genius foster siblings, Ava (age 12), who designs drones and speaks multiple languages, and Matt (age 15), a math whiz. A chance encounter leads the three to an internship in the lab of Dr. Hank Witherspoon and a trip with him to Antartica to judge an invention contest. When they arrive, though, they find that one of the scientists is missing along with all of her research.
We liked that the book includes a science experiment relating to density (a concept that’s key to the plot).
Larrabee and I are looking forward to the second book in the series, Jack and the Geniuses: In the Deep Blue Sea, set in Hawaii.