November 18, 2017

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The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser | SLJ Review

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redstarGLASER, Karina Yan. The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street. illus. by Karina Yan Glaser. 304p. HMH. Oct. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780544876392.

Gr 3-5 –Glaser’s pitch-perfect debut novel set in Harlem introduces the endearing biracial Vanderbeeker family. Twins Isa and Jessie, along with siblings Oliver, Hyacinth, and Laney (ranging from ages four-and-three-quarters to 12), plus a dog, a cat, a bunny, and their parents, all live together in a brownstone on 141st Street. Unfortunately, cantankerous landlord Mr. Biederman refuses to renew the lease. They have the five days before Christmas to change his mind or they will have to move out of the only home they have ever known. Each child has a plan and a distinct personality to match; the neighbors and friends all do, too. Glaser’s detailed line drawings of the block’s brownstones emphasize that this book is not just about one family; rather, it encompasses the stories of an interconnected community. Jessie creates a Rube Goldberg contraption that makes music while watering the building garden. Elderly Miss Josie and Mr. Jeet live above the Vanderbeekers and count on their support. A school dance, sibling rivalry, and preparing just the right gifts for Christmas are all subplots that Glaser deftly uses as a tool to both develop the characters and engage readers in the family’s entertaining daily chaos. Glaser’s love for the Vanderbeekers shines through in her prose and stick drawings. Readers will look forward to future adventures. VERDICT A highly recommended purchase for all middle grade collections. Fans of Sydney Taylor and Jeanne Birdsall are sure to be satisfied by this contemporary urban update of the family-centered novel.–Eva Thaler-Sroussi, Glencoe Public Library, IL

This review was published in the School Library Journal August 2017 issue.

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