Archive for the ‘Susan Denaker’ Category

[LISTENED TO: January 2017] A Dragon’s Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans

We listened to this book on our recent trip to Vermont. dragon

It was utterly unnerving to have the delightful Susan Denaker read this book because she was the author of the Penderwicks series which we love.  And her voice of Batty in that series is identical to the voice of the main girl, Winnie in this series.  But once we got past that (and it did take a while, we found this story to be fun and enjoyable.

But this story went in a direction I absolutely was not expecting–especially based on the title.

Each chapter has a heading like in an instruction manual for the care and feeding of Humans: If you value your happiness and sanity, take your time and choose your pet wisely.  To train your pet you will need three things patience, patience and above all patience.

And it seems to start out with that premise in mind.

For this book is narrated by a dragon, known as Miss Drake.   As the story opens, Miss Drake is in mourning because her pet, Fluffy, has died. Fluffy is the name she gave to Amelia, and older lady whom the dragon appeared to.  When Fluffy died Miss Drake planned on going to sleep for 20 or 30 years to get over it.  But just two days later, a little girl waltzed into her den–the girl had the key and everything! (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: August 2016] The Penderwicks in Spring

pend-springWe have loved the Penderwick books.  But I remember that when this came out, Sarah read it and was disappointed. Not in the quality of the book, but because the story has moved on.  This book is set about five years after the action of the previous book.

I totally get Birdsall’s desire to write about Batty rather than her older sisters–to move on from what she has written about for three books.  In the previous book Rosalind was more or less absent, so Birdsall is not afraid to progress with her characters.  But those characters are so great, that to have them largely absent from the story was so frustrating!  I missed them all (So I guess she could take that as a compliment).

Of course, the “new” characters are fun, too.  The book is mostly about Batty, but her younger half-brother Ben is older and quite a character (and he gets to show us things from his point of view–the only boy in a family of strong Penderwick girls).  And Batty’s father and stepmother have had a new baby, Lydia, who is just climbing out of her crib and is quite a handful. (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: May 24, 2015] The Penderwicks at Point Mouette

penderwicmouMy family loved the first Penderwicks book.  We listened to the second one but I missed a large part of it so I didn’t write about it.

In this third book, which is set but one year after the events of the first book, quite a lot has changed.  And the main characters are somewhat different in this book.

It is summer time and the Penderwicks are headed to Point Mouette, Maine for a vacation.  Except that Mr Penderwick is away in England [I won’t say why, I don’t want to spoil the part I know from book two] and Rosalind is vacationing in New Jersey with friends.  We don’t get to see Rosalind at all (I’d like to hear a bit more about her time in Ocean City), and we only get occasional phone calls from her (it’s as if Rosalind grew up and didn’t want to be part of the show anymore, so she was “written out” of the script).

That means that 12-year-old Skye is the O.A.P. (Oldest Available Penderwick) and she will look after 11-year-old Jane and 6-year-old Batty.  Fear not, they will have some adult help–Aunt Claire will be there too.  Although she is quickly taken out of the action when she twists her ankle and is on crutches for most of the book.

The one major problem I had with this book is that as O.A.P., Skye is annoyingly insecure in this book.  In general, Skye is a major bad ass.  She’s tough, she takes no guff from her sisters (even though she loves them dearly) or from boys.  And yet for this whole book she is petrified of being O.A.P.  And she comes across as a bit whiny.  While this does work to humanize her a bit, it also seems excessive.  Of course, this may also be the decision of audio book reader Susan Deneker to make her sound quite so frantic, but it’s weird to think of Skye as being so insecure.

On the other hand, she is the one who is mostly in charge of everyone and she is only 12, for crying out loud.  So her concern is understandable, it’s just that her reaction seems out of character.  Indeed, the whole premise of these books–that these kids make pretty big decisions on their own–is just crazy (but that does it give it a cool retro feel too). (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: April 4, 2015] The Penderwicks

penderEverything about this book feels like it’s an old story–from the cover (which is consistent in all versions as far as I can tell) to the tone.  It feels like a book that was set in perhaps the fifties or even the seventies.  Until we learn that the father has a computer and you see that the book was written in 2005.  Then you realize that Birdsall has simply captured an idyllic moment for a family and that although there are some trappings of modernism, it could be set at (nearly) any time (the computer is not really significant to the story).

Sarah had read the story and really liked it so she brought home the audio book and we all enjoyed listening to it.  (How upsetting to have about 30 minutes left in the 6 hour story when we got to the airport for our vacation and had to wait a week to finish).  The reader, Susan Denaker had a good selection of voices.  Sarah didn’t like her voice for the littlest girl, but I thought it was cute.  I was also impressed by her male voices–all similar (since they were from the same part of the country) but with enough different inflections so you could tell them apart.

So what is this story about?  Well, it is about the Penderwick Family.  Mr Penderwick is a scholar (he says Latin phrases to the girls all the time and they are not translated–so brush up!).  He has four daughters: Rosalind (12), Skye (11), Jane (10) and Batty (4).  The girls’ mother died shortly after giving birth to Batty (but not because of giving birth to Batty, she had cancer).  I always think it’s weird when a parent is dead in a story, especially if it said death is designed just to give the living parent a romantic interest.  But that doesn’t happen in this story. Their mother is dead, and the girls have to move on without her, but it also brings them together.  Rosalind more or less falls into the mothering role (poor girl) and their mother’s loss is felt throughout the book. (more…)

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