All families tell stories about themselves, little mythologies about who they are and what defines them. Being a Penderwick means holding oneself to the Penderwick family honor. The Penderwick family honor is never defined exactly, but it is repeatedly invoked at moments of conflict and deliberation. The family draws on a shared moral imagination that is organized around virtues like loyalty, bravery, respect, the courage to do the right thing, knowing right from wrong. It is accountability to the Penderwick family honor that most often pushes one of the children to do the right thing, or prevents them from doing the wrong one, or pulls them back after they have made a mistake.

Jeannie Birdsall’s Penderwick novels probe the tension between happiness and loss.