After seeing several of my friends on social media post about reading The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser, I decided this was a book I needed to purchase for myself and give it a read. Now that I have read it, I can tell you that I am in agreement with my friends that this book is delightful, lovely, and heart-melting. Glaser’s book tells the story of the Vanderbeeker family who inhabit the first floor of a Brownstone in Harlem, New York City. At the beginning of the story, the reader—along with the five Vanderbeeker siblings—finds out that their curmudgeonly landlord Mr. Beiderman is not renewing their lease for the next year, and they will have to find another place to call home. Isa, Jessie, Oliver, Hyacinth, and Laney feel a tinge of guilt upon hearing this news, as they believe this decision is because of them. To quote the book, “Among the many people who had visited the Vanderbeeker household there was quite a bit of debate about what it was like, but general agreement about what it was NOT: calm, tidy, boring, predictable.” Refusing to succumb to the Beiderman’s sentence, the five siblings decide to undertake the task of convincing him to change his mind by Christmas. The only problem? They only have 4 and a half days to do it.
As the reader embarks on this mission with the Vanderbeeker children, we meet their lovely friends and neighbors along the way. From their 3rd floor neighbors Miss Josie and Mr. Jeet to the Castlemans who own the neighborhood bakery, I felt the love and comradery of this little community nestled within such a huge city. One of the things I love about New York City is the diversity: millions of people who bring diverse cultures, food, celebrations, and beauty to the city. It all comes together in a magnificent tapestry. This is excellently reflected in Glaser’s book, and even the Vanderbeekers themselves, a biracial family, show us this beauty.
I went through several emotions as I read this book. I felt angry for the Vanderbeekers. I laughed at the quirks of each of the Vanderbeeker children, and I remembered having some of those same quirks when I was a child. Ultimately, my heart was warmed by this book. Many wonderful themes are woven throughout: the sense of community, the love of this family for each other and their neighborhood, forgiveness, humility, joy and sorrow, and kindness. Each page brought out the emotions within, but after reading page 279, I found myself sitting in the puddle of my own heart.
The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street is a lovely book for all ages to enjoy. I would recommend this for a read-aloud book as it would be fun to read with your own family or with your classroom if you are a teacher. This book gets five stars from me! Thank you, Karina Yan Glaser for sharing the Vanderbeekers with us! I look forward to reading more of their adventures!
Review written by Lauren Keen