The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street

The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser  Interior Illustrations by Karina Yan Glaser
Jacket Illustration by Karl James Mountford
Adorable Map Endpapers by Jennifer Thermes

Only a few days before Christmas the Vanderbeeker parents must give their children some heartbreaking news: they must move out of their beloved brownstone; their landlord won’t renew their lease. The spunky group is despondent but soon hatch a plan to win over the curmudgeon and save their home.

They’ve got a whole range of plans to save the day, from pretty respectable to absolutely harebrained. My favorite thing however is that they are REALLY bad at actually getting around to doing anything. The Vanderbeekers are horrible procrastinators and I love them all the better for it. They are forever not quite getting around to do these plans they formulate, but never fear, they’ll manage something in the nick of time.  The Vanderbeekers isn’t just schemes and sunshine however. It has a true heart. There’s a bit of tragedy that gets discovered as the story unfolds and there is of course the grief of losing a home. But the great thing about all of this is that adults are shown having emotions. Sometimes they cry, lash out or get quiet, but they really do show kids how they deal with their pain. And it ends up giving readers a model for ways to handle difficult situations and how their reactions affect others.

Ideal for fans of the Penderwicks, All-of-a-Kind Family, the Family Fletcher; the Vanderbeekers are your new motley crew. A biracial family with four sisters and one brother, they have widely divergent interests and talents, your little ones are bound to find someone to connect with. And…bear with me here…as a huge fan of Meet Me in St. Louis, I even got some Meet Me in St. Louis vibes from this: the big family with one boy in the middle, a big move near Christmas that no one wants, a neighbor boy with a crush. Go ahead, tell me I’m wrong. 

Age Recommendation:  This would make a good family read aloud, probably from age 7 or 8 and up, depending on how well your child could handle the spoiler below. I would use it in a classroom in Grades 4-5 and it would hold interest even for kids older than that.

The dialogue at the start of the book is intense. Some readers may have trouble differentiating  between all the characters. It is a great teaching opportunity. Using a graphic organizer to help readers organize their knowledge and thoughts about each character is a great way to help. I would love to have different members of a reading group work on each character and build a poster for reference with all their ideas.

There are also so many references: musicians, scientists, etc., that would be really fund for readers to explore with classmates, on their own, or with their families!

Sex, Nudity, Dating – An eighth grade boy wants to take a seventh grade girl to a dance.
Profanity – “screwed up”, “sucks”, “kick-butt”, “jerk face”
Death, Violence and Gore – Oliver jokes about taking someone down with a sword. A girl punches someone who insults her sister. SPOILER: Biederman’s wife and child died, hit by a cab.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – None.
Frightening or Intense Things – None.

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2 Responses to The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street

  1. Ms. Yingling says:

    I can’t get over being bothered by the parents lack of planning! That many children, and you are not making any plans at all for where you will live? I just couldn’t get past that, although everyone else seems to love it. Plus the whole “person grieving so much they can’t move on and are a horrible person because of it”. Bollocks, I say. I guess we all bring baggage to the books we read, and my own baggage made me have issues!

  2. Mrs.N says:

    I was definitely a bit surprised that the parents hadn’t found a new place, but I was more bothered by the lack of internet/smartphone access. JUST GOOGLE THE DUDE. I felt like that was danced around a lot & not as believable. But I definitely was able to suspend disbelief (and yes, admit it required a fair amount of that).

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