I have just finished the most wonderful book. The Penderwicks is a children's novel, but I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to anyone looking for some wonderful summer reading. The writing is rich. The voice is strong. Point of view alternates among the four Penderwick sisters, and you occasionally even see things through the eyes of a dog or a bull. The story concerns the Penderwick family, which is made up of four sisters, ranging in age from 12 down to 4 and their father. Their mother died shortly after the birth of the youngest, which adds a rich layer to the personalities of these girls, especially the oldest and the youngest. It's a part of who they are, and seems like a heavy subject, but this element did not trouble my 7 year old daughter.
This book was published in 2005, but reads like an old-fashioned classic to me, from a time when summer was filled with adventure, exploring and imagination. Every child, boy or girl, will relate to one of the characters--the responsible, but slightly lovestruck Rosalind, the brainy and practical tomboy Skye, the dreamy writer Jane, who also happens to be a great soccer player, and the shy younger sister Batty. There's also Jeffrey, the boy who lives next door, who joins the sisters in their fun and trouble, including two rescues, a soccer game which is written like a well-choreographed dance, using a secret tunnel through the hedge, and a fancy birthday party.
I think that that the book would be appropriate for boys or girls, ages 7 up to young teens. The reading level is probably around 4th grade. My daughter is a strong reader. She just finished 2nd grade and had no trouble reading it independently. For a 6 - 8 year old who could not read the whole thing on their own, you might try to alternate reading aloud. It also comes in an unabridged Audio CD if you are more inclined to listen to that as a family. If you have a long road trip in your future, this is something that I think that everyone, from age 6 or 7 up to the adults could enjoy listening to in the car or as an alternative to nightly TV.
Because it's the kind of book that truly can be enjoyed from age seven to seventy-seven, I thought it would be a great book to explore together as a family. I have posted details about this Family Book Club here, as a way to use this book as a springboard for family discussion.
*There is also a sequel, The Penderwicks on Gardam Street.