My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I really liked this story of four sisters, their botany professor dad and Hound, the exuberant dog. Strangely, I don't think I would have enjoyed it half as much if I'd read it as a child because nothing much happens. The sisters have a really enjoyable three-week summer holiday and make new friends, but there is no big adventure.
Or perhaps I would have liked it, who knows? It might have been different enough from my life at that time to appeal to me, despite the fact that not much happens in the story. After all, I did enjoy Little Women and The Secret Garden and there are faint echoes of both in this book with the close relationship between the sisters and the fact there is a boy in a big house who needs rescuing. In addition, Jeanne Birdsall captures the atmosphere of a long summer holiday in a beautiful place wonderfully and the girls all have very distinct personalities and they're all likeable.
I just have one very small quibble about Sir Barnaby Patterne (visiting judge of the garden competition), if he's from an old aristocratic family, then his son probably doesn't actually play football/soccer at school; he's much more likely to play rugby. However, it's perfectly possible that (unbeknownst to Mrs Tifton!), Sir Barnaby is not of ancient noble lineage and has been knighted for his services to something or other, in which case he could be from a relatively humble background originally and his son might attend a perfectly ordinary school. Oh, and just one more thing about the soccer, I was amused by Jane channelling her imaginary footballer Mick Hart from Manchester which is my native city and home to two great teams.
Anyway, I hope the quibble doesn't seem negative. It wasn't meant to be and it was a delightful summer read. Finally, I'm not sure what age group this book is aimed at, but the story is gentle enough for quite young children, say from 5 upwards if it is read aloud to them. In fact I can see myself buying a copy for my granddaughter in the very near future!
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