When the four Penderwick sisters, Rosalind, Skye, Jane, and Batty head off to vacation in a country cottage with their dog, Hound, and their widowed father, they have no idea what adventures await them. The mansion next door holds the frightening Mrs. Tifton, and (happily) her son, Jeffrey. Although their meeting is not auspicious (Skye accidentally body-slams him and then says terrible things about his mother), Jeffrey and the Penderwicks soon form close bonds.
Their adventures are many, ranging from Jeffrey saving four-year-old Batty's life to the group surviving a formal dinner party. An over-riding question nags the reader: can Jeffrey be saved from an inevitable stay at military boarding school?
Through it all, the family connections are heartwarming and yet true. Friendship is a major force in the characters' lives, as is the promise of a someday romance (which was handled skillfully and realistically). This gentle tale, refreshingly lacking in irony and mean spiritedness (no mean girls, here) manages to be exciting and fun, and is sure to become a classic.