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October 23, 2012 / Angela Sylvia

What I’m Reading: The Penderwicks on Gardam Street, I Was a Teenage Fairy

With a lot of my recent stress over and done with, I’ve actually been able to finish a book without losing my concentration and tossing it aside. I’ve felt a big need for something that I can just relax with and flow through in a couple of days, so a lot of my reading focus has been on children’s and young adult books.

The Penderwicks on Gardam Street is Jeanne Birdsall’s sequel to The Penderwicks. In this book, the four sisters are back home and deal with a major problem — their aunt wants their father to start dating again. While the main plot is the sisters trying to prevent a stepmother disaster, Birdsall manages to weave in a number of other subplots: the boy across the street keeps acting strange around Rosalind, Skye and Jane switch homework only to meet with disaster, and little Batty is certain there’s an evil “Bug Man” prowling their street. Rather than weigh the story down or make it too complicated, Birdsall fits everything in pretty seamlessly, broadening the characters and giving the story a lot of depth. A scene at the end when the girls stop a burglary is too farfetched for me (you think they’d be a little more terrified about a strange man in their neighbor’s house)  and the final epilogue gets a little cheesy. Still, it’s a well-written story with great characters. I see a little piece of me in each of the four sisters, and I love them all the more for it. I’ll be getting the next book the next time I go to the bookstore.

If guilt had a color–say, purple–the Penderwick sisters would have turned so purple that it dripped off them and spread its way through the house, turning everything purple, upstairs and down.

I’ve also found myself with a sudden obsession with Francesca Lia Block. I read The Hanged Man last year for a seminar, but recently I’ve taken from the library Weetzie Bat, Violet and Claire, and I Was a Teenage Fairy. I Was a Teenage Fairy was my most recent read. All of Block’s books have a magical quality to them, even if they aren’t technically fantasy. Teenage Fairy is the closest to fantasy, as Barbie Marks, child model, begins seeing a fairy named Mabs. Still, while eventually there are others that see Mabs it’s not entirely clear if this is all part of their imagination, seeing a sharp-tongued fairy right when they need some magic in their lives. Not being big on chapters, it’s easy to find yourself sucked into Block’s books for longer than you originally intended, but those lost hours are well worth it. It’s currently my mission to read every book she’s ever written.

Barbie wished Mab had come with her. But Mab never left the backyard. She said she was afraid of getting squashed. Barbie assumed that the fact that Mab never went anywhere with her was proof that Mab was probably real. Otherwise, Barbie would definitely have imagined her here now.

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