The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser is a charming, funny, and heart-warming book about the five Vanderbeeker kids—Isa, Jessie, Oliver, Hyacinth, and Laney—and the plans they concoct to stay in their beloved Harlem home after their grumpy landlord decides not to renew their family’s lease.
It’s an absolute joy to read, and it would make a perfect class or family read-aloud. You will want to climb inside the world of this story and stay there, befriending the entire Vanderbeeker family!
Just in case you need any more convincing, here are our top five reasons why you should read the book, plus a “Which Vanderbeeker Are You?” quiz to help you determine your Vanderbeeker kindred spirit.
Top Five Reasons to Read The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street
1.) The setting. The book features an extraordinarily vivid, delightful setting—Karina Yan Glaser does a masterful job of depicting the Vanderbeekers’ brownstone and their entire Harlem neighborhood. People often talk about world-building in fantasy or science fiction, but the world-building in this contemporary realistic story is top-notch.
2.) An interesting, happy family. It’s refreshing to read a book that features a big, noisy, content, biracial family with devoted parents and lots of lovable siblings and pets. Sure, the Vanderbeeker siblings have some conflicts, but the moments of affection between the kids and the parents are truly touching.
3.) The story isn’t just happy. Overall, this is a humorous, joyful story, and reading it feels a bit like curling up under a cozy blanket and eating Mama Vanderbeeker’s double chocolate pecan cookies. But there’s some tragedy in the novel as well, and it’s handled in an appropriately gentle way but is not at all sugarcoated. This is a comforting story, yes, but it’s set in a world in which sadness coexists with joy.
4.) The ensemble cast of main characters. In this book, you get five main characters for the price of one! All five Vanderbeeker siblings are equally lovable and equally well-developed. Any writers who want to write a book with an ensemble cast would do well to study this one!
5.) More Vanderbeeker adventures are on the way! After you fall in love with the Vanderbeekers in this book, you’ll get to read more about this charming family’s escapades! The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden releases on September 25, and then a third Vanderbeekers story will follow.
All of the Vanderbeeker siblings are delightful, but which one is most like you? Take this quiz to find out!
1.) Your friend is having a terrible day. How would you cheer her up?
a.) By playing her favorite song for her.
b.) By creating a Rube-Goldberg-type machine that would light up with a smiley face.
c.) By writing her a haiku and challenging her to a game of pick-up basketball.
d.) By making her something crafty.
e.) By giving her lots of enormous hugs!
2.) Uh oh. You’ve done something that frustrated someone you care about. What did you do to push his buttons?
a.) You were working so hard on your favorite creative pursuit that you weren’t around to hang out when he came by to see you.
b.) You thought you knew what he would want in a certain situation, so you made a decision for him instead of letting him speak for himself.
c.) You lost your temper just a little bit and wrote him an angry note.
d.) You couldn’t quite summon up all your bravery and were too nervous to do something he wanted you to do.
e.) You got a little too exuberant and knocked him over with an extra-giant hug.
3.) It’s your birthday! What gift is at the top of your wish list?
a.) Tickets to a musical performance.
b.) An amazing chemistry set.
c.) New basketball sneakers and the new book by your favorite author.
d.) Arts and craft supplies and a recipe book.
e.) Fun clothes for dressing up.
4.) You’re working with a few other people on a group project. What role will you take on?
a.) You’ll be the leader who gets everyone organized.
b.) You’ll do all the detail-oriented sketches and calculations.
c.) You’ll be in charge of the written part.
d.) You’ll be in charge of the artistic stuff. Posters and other visuals have your name all over them.
e.) You’ll be the one to encourage everybody and to keep a positive attitude even when things are hard.
5.) What would other people say is your best trait?
a.) You’re a compassionate friend and you forgive people when they make mistakes.
b.) You’re extremely loyal, and you always stick up for the people you care about.
c.) You’re not too proud to learn from your mistakes, apologize for them, and make things right.
d.) You are always kind to everyone, people and animals alike, and you can be brave even when frightened.
e.) You make people laugh, and your enthusiasm and affection bring joy to others.
If you answered mostly A, you’re an Isa! Musical, organized, responsible, and kind.
If you answered mostly B, you’re a Jessie! Passionate, scientific, and fiercely loyal.
If you answered mostly C, you’re an Oliver! You love sports, books, and poetry, and you truly want to do what’s right.
If you answered mostly D, you’re a Hyacinth! Brave when you need to be and kind to all.
If you answered mostly E, you’re a Laney! Funny, loving, and brimming with contagious joy.
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We hope you love the book as much as we do, and we hope you’ll join us for the MG at Heart Book Club Twitter chat about THE VANDERBEEKERS OF 141ST STREET! It’s happening on Tuesday, April 3rd at 8:00PM EST. Use the hashtag #MGbookclub to participate!