The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy, Jeanne Birdsall.
The Penderwicks is sweet, playful, funny, poignant, full of the victories and innocences and heartbreaks of childhood. After the first three chapters, I thought, "Eh, it's nice enough." By the end of the book I was thoroughly charmed.
The Penderwicks won the 2005 National Book Award in the category of Young People's Literature, and it's easy to see why. It's got an old-fashioned charm. The subtitle sums up the story: Summer, four sisters, two rabbits (and the cute teenaged owner of the rabbits, who sets a young lady's heart a-flutter), and a friendly boy with whom they form a fast friendship. Lovely responsible Rosalind, fierce and loyal Skye, dreamy Jane, and shy imaginative Batty travel to a summer cottage with their absent-minded father and their beloved hound, Hound. They aren't met with dragons or magic or pirates or grand adventures, just a kind boy who needs their friendship. By the end of the book I loved the Penderwick girls fiercely, and I wasn't quite ready for the Penderwick vacation to end. I can't wait to read this to the fine young gents.
Looking for an even more ringing endorsement? Lovely lady, 12, chose this for her free reading book. "Are you enjoying The Penderwicks?" I asked when she was about halfway through the book. Her answer was an very enthusiastic "Yes!" complete with wide eyes and a vigorous nod of the head. High praise indeed.
More about The Penderwicks here.