The Penderwicks
June 22, 2017
Thimble Summer
July 6, 2017


Quick Glance



This is the total number of incidents in this 240 pages book.

*As personal standards vary, please see the breakdown to determine what matters to you.

Author: Vince Vawter
Key Words: Fiction, Growing Up, Newbery Honor

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Book Description:

Little Man throws the meanest fastball in town. But talking is a whole different ball game. He can barely say a word without stuttering—not even his own name. So when he takes over his best friend’s paper route for the month of July, he’s not exactly looking forward to interacting with the customers. But it’s the neighborhood junkman, a bully and thief, who stirs up real trouble in Little Man’s life.


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Children's Bad Words

Mild Obscenities & Substitutions - 10 Incidents

stupid, h*ll

Name Calling - 13 Incidents

snake, retard, b*tch (several times), colored, *ss, skinny-*ss, stuttering poet, stuttering dummy, n*gg*r (implied), old woman,

Scatological Terms - 3 Incidents

bl**dy (as in lots of blood)

Religious Profanity - 2 Incidents

Law me (Lord)

Religious & Supernatural - 8 Incidents

There’s a man who makes a living by telling the future.

A boy is upset that God made him have trouble talking. “A god who would play dirty tricks on a kid like that didn’t know very much about being a god.”

Existentialism is explained briefly. A few philosophical ideas are thrown into the conversation.

Haints (ghosts) are discussed.

A boy compares his parent’s church with his black maid’s church.

“I know a kid is supposed to respect grown-ups who make the rules and also respect God who knows how everything is supposed to work but I couldn’t get over the feeling that neither one of them was doing a very good job.”

A boy struggles with praying and “finally gave up on God helping me.”

“Buried so deep the Hounds of Hell can’t dig it up.”

Romance Related - 18 Incidents

A man is over at a woman’s house (it is implied that they’re having an affair). When a little boy knocks at the door (it can be implied he’s interrupting them having sex) the man lies, saying he’s a cousin.

A boy comes to a woman’s porch and finds her passed out from drinking. He watches/looks at her and is kind of attracted to her beauty. Her coat is open again. (This could be infatuation/lust as he thinks about her and her open coat often).

A boy decides to sneak into his mom’s room and look into her private box. He discovers that his dad isn’t really his biological father (it’s implied she was raped). The boy has many questions and thinks a lot about his real father.

“If some other man and my mother got together to make me …”

The characters are watching a movie where a man is in love with a married woman.

A boy starts dating a girl.

A woman isn’t appropriately covered with clothes.

A woman’s coat flops open, implying she’s revealing more than she should.

“I didn’t usually pay much attention to dresses that ladies wore but this one looked special the way the wide belt fastened tight around her middle like it was dividing her into two parts.”

LUST: A boy thinks back to the woman he saw who couldn’t keep her coat closed (implied she showed at least some cleavage). It’s one of the things that keeps him laying awake at night.

“When he came out of his mammy somebody yelled to get a clean flour sack.”

GRAPHIC: “I refolded some papers that weren’t as tight as Dick’s hatband. I asked my mother once who Dick was when she talked about his hatband but she never would tell me.” Implied penis and condom.

A boy goes into a woman’s house who is drunk. The following scene is somewhat awkward as he seems to be attracted to her and notices her hair, lips, etc.

LUST: “Mrs. Worthington and her red hair. That was the dessert of my thinking.”

LUST: A boy wants to ‘look at [a woman] again up close.”

Mentions a boy was shirtless.

“I thought Mrs. Worthington the prettiest woman I had ever seen.”

LUST: A boy thinks about a woman.

Parent Takeaway

As seen from the report, there are numerous adult themes running through the story and a bit of strong language; particularly for a book recommended for children age ten. Because the main character has a speech impediment (stutters), his maid rarely punishes him for wrong doing. He lies often and as an indirect consequence of his disobedience, he and his maid almost get murdered. He also has some issues with God, although in the end and after his maid has described her faith in God, he decides to give God another try. As the boy grapples with understanding so many things he is learning of or witnessing, the author introduces an older character that tries, through philosophy, to help the boy's thought processes.

The over all theme of the story is to notice the people around you and to try, even if it's small, to make each person's life just a little better. The boy receives four words from the old man that he doesn't understand but wishes to learn and incorporate into his life. The words are: Student, Servant, Seller, and Seeker, indicating we should all practice being each one of these.

Attitudes/Disobedience - 22 Incidents

A boy is told not to hang around a man (who’s vicious). He disobeys several times.

The main character has a stuttering/speech problem. Kids in his class snicker at him when he tries to speak.

A boy lies.

A boy lies.

A boy lies.

A boy is jealous that his friend is in the country and he lies to disguise his feelings.

A boy is angry and screams words in his head.

A boy decides to sneak into his mom’s room and look into her private box. He discovers that his dad isn’t really his biological father (it’s implied she was raped). The boy has many questions and thinks a lot about his real father.

A son and mother don’t really get along: “If some other man and my mother got together to make me then why did I like being around my father more than my mother?”

A boy is angry and wants to punch the person who beat up his maid.

A boy is mad and thinks that “a dirt clod upside [a boy’s] head or a rock to smash the screen would make him forget about television for a while.”

A boy didn’t come home early enough like he was supposed to.

A boy lies about a man he met, wanting to keep him a secret. So he says he has an imaginary friend; a friend “in his head.”

A boy lies about where he left his stuff. He left it at a place he was forbade to go.

Several boys smush spiders for fun and tease another boy for not doing it with them.

A boy makes up a story so that he and his black maid can take a picture together.

A boy gets bullied. He thinks about hitting the bully with a rock.

A boy feels like being a smart mouth and gets angry.

A boy is very angry so chucks rocks at the moon.

A boy disobeys. He is not punished and decides he’s following his maid whether she wants him to or not.

A boy disobeys and does not stay where he was told to stay. As a result, he almost gets killed and witnesses a murder.

A boy eavesdrops even though he said he wouldn’t.

Conversation Topics - 18 Incidents

The main character in this story has a speech/stuttering impediment.

This book takes place during racial segregation in America. The boy’s maid is black and he witnesses several racial injustices.

Mentions dog turds.

A woman is drunk and has been drinking whiskey. (She and a few other characters are drunk several times throughout the book).

Tobacco, cigarettes whiskey, wine and alcohol are mentioned several times throughout the book (not positively).

A man steals a mop (he steals many items throughout the book).

A boy meets a man who is philosophical and teaches him different ideas. “If you are asking if the story of Jason and the Argonauts is fiction or nonfiction, I will answer that there is no difference between the two in the world I inhabit.” They discuss “truth.”

A boy remembers going to see a hypnotist.

A mother lies to her son, saying she gave up smoking.

A man invites a boy into his house and says, “I know it might be against newspaper regulations or against your parent’s wishes [to go into a stranger’s house] but I can assure you it is proper in this context.” (Though nothing happens and he becomes a good friend, this is an odd sentence for a children’s book).

A boy goes into a woman’s house who is drunk. The following scene is somewhat awkward as he seems to be attracted to her and notices her hair, lips, etc.

A boy doesn’t understand why his black maid has to ride in the back of a bus.

A kid is taunting a giraffe and when a black lady interferes, he calls her a “n*gg*r” (implied but enough details given).

Snuff: A woman opens “her handbag and takes a pinch from a bottle of Garrett’s with her thumb and finger and puts it in her lower lip.”

Mentions Juke Joints.

A boy decides that even though the man who acts as father didn’t biologically have him, he owes him a lot for parenting him.

Mentions dog turds.

There is a discussion about how schools will no longer be segregated.

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