The Penderwicks, Jeanne Birdsall
In short: Super-retro tale of children running free during summer vacation and getting into adorable kinds of “trouble”. The four sisters are well-drawn and endearing, even if they fall neatly into Boxcar Children-esque sibling stereotypes, and the people they encounter while on vacation are just quirky enough to be interesting. The novel is old-fashioned in its language and plot, so it is really jarring when all of a sudden the girls’ dad pulls out his laptop. How many parents in 2009 are trusting enough to let their kids run wild around an unfamiliar area? (I mean, I did that as a kid, but that was a good 15 years ago, and in a small town with zero crime.) Of course, the whole book is set in an incredibly wholesome alternate universe (the most scandalous this book gets is when the oldest sister develops an incredibly wholesome crush on an older boy), so this is a good choice for parents who have concerns about what their kids are reading.
All in all, this is a really cute story – I’m guessing it’ll be enjoyed more by adults who want to indulge in nostalgia than actual present-day children, but that happens.
Read it if you like: The Boxcar Children, other slightly dated children’s series