The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall: If you think that taking the Penderwicks out of their idyllic vacation home and plopping them back in the real world with school and after-school sports would squelch the magic and fun from the first book, well, you're wrong. I wondered how sending the Penderwicks home would affect this sequel, but Birdsall has kept the magic going. The girls have their most exciting adventures yet: saving their father from dating, dealing with conflicts with boys, and starring in the school play are just a few components of their busy lives. Jane, the writer in the family, trades homework assignments with Skye, the math and science genius, only to have her play performed for the school and stage fright-stricken Skye the star. Rosalind's friend Tommy starts acting very strange and dating another girl. Aunt Claire comes to visit with a letter from their dead mother, insisting that their father start dating. The girls react to this news with the Save Daddy Plan, in which they vow to find him horrible blind dates so he can stop dating and they won't have a stepmother. Meanwhile, a lovely young widow has moved next door with her small son. I don't want to spoil any of the plot for you, though the ending is fairly telegraphed. I still brushed away a tear :) Charming, nostalgic, lovely children's book. (I had read a review complaining that there's nothing new here, that Birdsall is no different from Elizabeth Enright and Eleanor Estes (if you haven't read them, go get the books now! I'll wait.) and it's true that there are similarities. But they're deliberate, and Birdsall has done some updating.)
The Sisters Grimm: The Unusual Suspects by Michael Buckley: In Book Two (following The Fairy Tale Detectives), the sisters are finally enrolled in school. Daphne adores her teacher (Snow White) and all the kids in her class, but things aren't so great in Sabrina's sixth grade class. The kids are all sleepy, their teacher is horrible until he's killed by a giant spider, and the gym teacher thinks dodgeball is the only game there is. The kids (and Granny, of course) must solve the murder and other mysterious goings-on at Ferryport Elementary. This was an excellent follow-up with lots of action and plot development. The jaded Sabrina is going to have to overcome her suspicious of all Everafters, the girls will have to get Puck to help them, and Sabrina is still searching for a way to save their parents. A lovely entry in a lovely series, but it ends on a cliffhanger, so have #3 ready!
My reviews of the first books in each series are here.