By Booth Tarkington
The setting of this story is in a small town somewhere in America. The main character is a boy called Penrod who goofs off with his friend Sam in their neighborhood.
The Rising Action
The two children invent a game called Bonded Pris'ner, which is about sword fighting. In this game Penrod and Sam, the last of their team, capture the enemy's best fighter named Verman. They then shove Verman into a closet and forget about him.
After the game ends, they go to Penrod's house for dinner, and while they are eating they hear Herman, Verman's brother, calling out his name. Both kids remember the child they hid and become scared because Margaret, Penrod's older sister, opened her closet to get dressed for dancing. They hear a scream from upstairs, and Verman dashes through the front door and goes home.
The two friends build a shack which they use as a base for their society "In or In". The boy Georgie Basset wants to be part of the society because all the other boys in the neighborhood are all part of the order. He goes to his mother and implores her to ask Sam's mother to let him be part of the group. The mother agrees and tells Sam's dad. The dad, Mr. Williams, forced Sam to let Georgie into the group or else he would tear down the shack. The society has to accept, so they haze Georgie, and they get punished for doing it.
Sam and Penrod find an old white horse in their alley. They take the poor old thing into their barn and feed it with apples and veggies from both of their cellars. After helping this poor animal, they are found out by Della, Penrod's family's chef. The family calls the animal care society. This society tells them that that horse was abused by its former master and that the boy's had earned a silver medal for caring for it. (Compassion for animals)
On her way home from a visit to her friend, Mrs. Schofield keeps thinking that Penrod was feeling unwell, and she remembers all the sicknesses that Penrod had ever had. On the night of her arrival home, she wakes up the poor boy two times at night to give him a pill, and to heat his feet with hot water. The next day, Mrs. Schofield buys some anxiety medicine for Penrod because she saw him climbing a telephone pole and is afraid that he has anxiety problems. Penrod throws away the medicine when she is not looking, and she stops giving him it since her sister-in-law had come for a visit.
Penrod's dog, Duke, is sleeping on the porch of his master's home when he hears a crash. He gets rudely awakened by a cat named Gypsy. This cat was a runaway from a far off state, in which it was being hunted by the police because it had killed and hurt many cats. Gypsy had wandered into the Schofield's yard because Della, their cook, had thrown a large fish bone into the yard that had part of the tail still on it, and that was what had attracted the cat. Duke charged at the horrid creature headfirst and promptly made it fall into a sewer.
Penrod and Sam want to get the cat out of the sewer so that they can create a circus with it and Duke. Sam agreed, so they paid a saw to Herman for his pants so that they could lower them into the sewer. When they lowered them into the sewer, the cat scrambled up the pants and bit Sam's shoulder, making him drop them. They fell into the sewer and were never found again.
Penrod's school requires all the children to write a letter to another child and to read it out loud to the rest of the class. On the eve of the school day, Penrod has not yet written his letter, so he peeks in his sister's room and sees a letter. He takes it, and signs it, then he hides it. The next day, when he arrives at school, he reads his letter and is shocked to find out that it was a love letter to a man. After being detained at school, Penrod goes home, and is jeered at by all the kids in the alley, so he beats them up by throwing dirt clods into their faces.
Penrod and his friends are invited to go to a party. When they arrive there, many of the boys and girls start dancing together. Penrod and a few boys who hated dancing bumped into many of the dancers while shouting, "oops! Got your bumpus." Many of the boys who were dancing soon join in the commotion until every one of the boys would all be shouting the phrase. Penrod, the leader of the mischief, runs along the halls of the house with his band of friends and rampages.
At long last, the parents calm them down, but do not notice that one of the boys was missing. This boy had gone to turn on a water faucet and to plug the drain up. At the very end of the party, the house starts flooding from the torrent the faucet had released, and Penrod was blamed for it all.
Penrod lives happily ever after, and dreams of the day when summer will come, and his sufferings at school will end.
Penrod is one of the main characters of this book. He is very creative and invented a game named "Bonded Prisoner" which is a sword fighting game. Penrod loves guns and battles of any sort. This boy is very mischievous, so he and his friend Sam stuff the miniscule kid, Verman, into a closet and locked him in.
(“I guess you don’t know who you’re talkin’ to,” Penrod said ominously to Sam. “I guess I just better show you who you’re talkin’ to like that. I guess you need a little sump thing, for the main and simple—”)
Penrod is very creative and knows how to employ his time in a very fun way, so he invents a game called safari in which Herman and Verman were natives and Gypsy was a tiger. Sam was the "hunter" who used a broomstick as a gun. Penrod was the cameraman who took images of the tiger and tribesmen.
Penrod is a very mischievous boy who leads others into the same wicked path. At a dancing party, he inspires his friends to run into the dancers and shout at the top of their lungs, "oops! Got your bumpus." When a different boy floods the hostess' house, he is blamed because it is similar to what he would do.
Sam is Penrod's partner in crimes because they are very much alike, they are both mischievous and creative. Sam lives in a house near Penrod's and loves to play with him. He smacks Verman on the hat and captures him in bonded prisoner. Verman who is an amiable chap does not resist when they force him into a closet. Sam beats up Penrod because of his overuse of the annoying phrase: "For the main and simple reason"
Sam and Penrod play a game called safari. Sam pretends that a broom handle was his "gun" with which he "shoots" the two "natives" Herman and Verman. After playing a bit with these two boys, Sam buys Herman's trousers so that he can save a cat named Gypsy from drowning in Penrod's sewer, which is a kind of Sam to do. In a jiffy they take the cat out, they put it in a cage and resume their game. Sam suggests that the boys pretend that the cat is a tiger and that they should shake the cage to make it growl, and spit, which is kind of nasty.
He cannot stay away from trouble, when he and Penrod are invited to a party, he helps Penrod rampage around the building and shout "got your bumpus" to all the dancers in which he collided.
("Sam uttered an uncontrollable howl and sprang upon Penrod, catching him round the waist.")
Verman is a small nine-year-old who is undersized for his age and wears a top hat, probably to look taller. He lives in the street between Penrod and Sam's houses and usually plays with them. When he was captured, he laughed at the antics of the two "knights" while they bickered and annoyed each other.
("Verman bent double, squealing and sputtering; indeed, he was ultimately forced to sit upon the ground, so exhausting was the mirth to which he now gave way.")
Georgie Basset is one of the children who play with Penrod and Sam. This boy is different from all the other boys because he attends Sunday school with glee, and he finds it very fascinating. He typically stops playing games with them so that he can go home faster and get ready for Sunday school. He ruins most of the kids' games because if they do something that he does not approve of he reports them to his mom which then tells the children's' parents. One such time was when the children created a shack and made an initiation to the brotherhood of the shack. This initiation was being whacked on the floor until you cried, then being taken and soaked in water. Georgie really wants to be with the other boys, but they shun him, so he asks his mother to call Penrod and Sam's mothers and tell them about this situation, also he is ready to undertake the initiation which is very painful.
Mrs. Schofield is Penrod's mother. Occasionally, she punishes Penrod for doing things he was not allowed to do, showing that she takes care of him. When she visits her friend, and is away from home, she is afraid of Penrod becoming sick.