“The Penderwick Family was being torn apart,” begins this third entry in Jeanne Birdsall’s always delightful Penderwick series (the first having won the National Book Award). For three of the four energetic Penderwick sisters, this means spending two weeks with their Aunt Claire at Point Mouette, Maine, while their father and his new wife are honeymooning in England. The oldest daughter, Rosalind, will be separated from her sisters for the first time as she heads to the New Jersey shore with a classmate.

Skye is worried that she doesn’t have what it takes to be OAP (Oldest Available Penderwick). Her OAP-dom is indeed tested when five-year-old Batty needs constant supervision and Aunt Claire sprains her ankle, requiring help from Alec, the musician next door. Meanwhile, Jane, usually content to pen Sabrina Starr tales, falls in love for the first time and experiences writer’s block, causing no-nonsense, budding astrophysicist Skye to muse, “Killer asteroids, a frozen Earth, the end to humanity—all this was much easier to handle than a besotted sister.” Yet perhaps the biggest surprise in this summer of adventures is when some of the Penderwicks begin to notice that their musically talented friend Jeffrey, who has never known his biological father, resembles Alec.

Amid the beauty of New England, where a moose and her twin babies make appearances, time seems to slow down, with only a brief mention of a cell phone to remind readers that The Penderwicks at Point Mouette takes place in the present day. With exquisite descriptions, charms reminiscent of a bygone era and the Penderwicks’ endearing loyalty, Birdsall’s gentle stories—destined to become classics—continue to get better. Readers can only hope that her best one yet isn’t her last.

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