Title: THE VANDERBEEKERS OF 141ST STREET
Author: Karina Yan Glaser
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
ARC?: Yes, provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
TW/CW: Death of characters (non-main, briefly mentioned)
The Vanderbeekers have always lived in the brownstone on 141st Street. It’s practically another member of the family. So when their reclusive, curmudgeonly landlord decides not to renew their lease, the five siblings have eleven days to do whatever it takes to stay in their beloved home and convince the dreaded Beiderman just how wonderful they are. And all is fair in love and war when it comes to keeping their home.
I am always on the lookout for good middle grade Christmas books and this one proved to be an excellent one.
The Vanderbeekers are a family of 7 (Dad, Mom, 4 sisters, and 1 lone brother… bless his heart) who live in a brownstone in Harlem with their various pets. Right before Christmas, their landlord decides not to renew their lease with no explanation. The kids are baffled- they’ve been trying so hard to be as quiet as possible! The kids decide that they can’t possible leave their home, especially after their parents say they might have to leave Harlem altogether. Banding together, the Vanderbeeker children decide to make Beiderman understand just why they can’t move… and why he doesn’t want them to.
I was very impressed with the family and friend dynamics in this book. While the kids do come together to convince Beiderman to renew their lease, the kids still do what kids do! They fight, they argue, they have fun with their friends. In a lot of books, the central conflict becomes all the characters think about and that’s not wholly realistic especially when it comes to children. People still have lives to lead even in crisis and I loved that in between scheming, the Vanderbeeker children were doing normal things.
There’s a wide variety of characters in the book and while I don’t feel that they were necessarily very well fleshed out, they served their purpose of lending support to the children when it was necessary. I love a good fleshed out side character, but I also love characters that have maybe just a steering purpose.
Beiderman is a classic curmudgeonly man with a past. I pretty much figured what his tragic story would be but younger readers probably would not. If you do buy this one for younger readers, I would definitely impress upon them that they probably should not keep pestering a reclusive neighbor. It works in fiction but probably isn’t a good idea in real life.
All in all, I enjoyed this book so much and I can’t wait to share this with my godkids in December!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Originally from California, Karina came to New York City for college and has stuck around for nearly twenty years. She has had a varied career teaching and implementing literacy programs in family homeless shelters and recruiting healthcare professionals to volunteer in under resourced areas around the world. Now as a mother, one of her proudest achievements is raising two kids who can’t go anywhere without a book. She lives in Harlem with her husband, two daughters, and an assortment of rescued animals.
Karina is a contributing editor at Book Riot, the largest independent book media company in North America, where she writes the weekly The Kids Are All Right newsletter as well as children’s book recommendation posts.