A Conversation with Karina Yan Glaser: Books Between, Episode 46

Episode Outline:

Listen to the episode here!


Hi everyone and welcome to the Books Between Podcast! I believe in the power of stories to brighten our world and spark change within ourselves.  My goal is to help you connect kids with those amazing stories and share inspiring conversations with the authors and educators who make that magic happen.

I am Corrina Allen – a mom of two tween girls, a 5th grade teacher, and surrounded by slime. Oh. My. God. There is no escaping this stuff – it’s like a preteen version of The Blob with sparkles and glitter and sequins and now – foams beads!

This is Episode #46 and today I’m sharing three books featuring the magical power of dogs, and then I’ll share with you a conversation with Karina Yan Glaser – author of The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street!

Two quick announcements before we get started – the MG at Heart Twitter chat about  The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street is tomorrow night – Tuesday, April 3rd at 8pm EST using the hashtag #MGBookClub. And if you want to get ahead with your reading, the April Middle Grade at Heart Book Club pick is The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson and the May pick is Every Shiny Thing by Laurie Morrison and Cordelia Jensen. I was excited to have Laurie join me today to interview Karina and can’t wait to have her back to discuss her own debut.

Book Talk – Three Novels Featuring the Special Magic of Dogs

In this section of the show, I share with you a few books centered around a theme and discuss three things to love about each book.  This week I’ll be talking about three awesome middle grade novels about separation, unlikely friendships, and the special magic of dogs. Now I will admit up front that am not a huge dog person. I mean – a well-trained dog is an amazing pet, and I love visiting with my friend’s dogs but I am more than okay with not having one of my own. But these three books hit me hard – and if YOU love dogs, they will wend their way into your heart even more. The books this week are Good Dog by Dan Gemeinhart, Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly, and Granted by John David Anderson.

Good Dog

81qemgIfCELFirst up –  Good Dog! Just….wow – Dan Gemeinhart hits another one out of the park! He is already a favorite author of so many of my students, and I’m glad to have another title to recommend after they have finished Scar Island or Some Kind of Courage or especially – The Honest Truth. This novel has a slightly different feel than his previous books. It is told from the point of view of Brodie – a dog who we meet just after he’s entered the great beyond after his death. And as our Brodie figures out the rules of this new place, and makes some friends, he remembers more of his past life on Earth. And remembers the danger that his boy, Aidan, is still in. And Brodie has to decide whether to move on to that ultimate Forever or if saving his boy from that threat is worth the awful price he’ll have to pay to even attempt helping him. Here are three things to love about Good Dog:

  1. The afterlife concept in this book. So – I don’t believe in life after death, but if it existed – I would hope it’s like this one. Going to an in-between place, a passing-through place where peace will rise up to you through your remembering as the goodness in you shakes off the last bits of darkness and sadness until you can move on to that final Forever.
  2. Tuck. I loved this dog – this sweet can’t-stand-still, can’t-be-quiet, always-running heart of gold black pit bull who was a good dog – even when it was hard. This dog who maybe – sort of – sold a bit of his soul for a French Fry. (Hey, I can relate!)
  3. It’s hard to explain how much I came to love this book without giving away a major spoiler. And I had prided myself on the fact that even though others had warned me to have tissues handy, I was fine… no tears, just FINE. Until page 285 when I learned that tiny but significant detail about the narrator that had me a sobbing wreck and needing to reread the entire thing!

Hello, Universe

30653713The second book I want to tell you about this week is the 2018 Newbery Award winner – Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly. This one has a special place in my heart because it’s a novel that my daughters and I experienced together. We listened to the audio book throughout December and January and grew so attached to – well, I was going to say, to all the characters in the book, but I’ll say all but one. Hello, Universe is a quietly powerful story told from the point of view of four children. Virgil Salinas, a shy and quiet boy who longs to be recognized as more than just the “turtle” of his family. And who wants to be friends with Valencia – the girl in his special needs class at school. His close friend is Kaori Tanaka who has this physic business for kids and who places a lot of stock in signs and horoscopes and telling fortunes and the concept of Fate. And the final of the main trio is Valencia Somerset, who loves nature and adventure and who is also deaf. She and Virgil attend the same school but haven’t really met. However, they’ve both met Chet Bullens – the school bully. The entire story takes place over the course of one day when at various times, all four children end up in the woods near their school. And one of them falls in an abandoned well. Here are three things to love about Hello, Universe.

  1. The blend of the mystical and the modern intertwined with Filipino folktales that really show the power of those stories across generations. And how those archetypes of heroes can inspire us to our bravery. Or as Virgil’s grandmother says, to discovering your inner “bayani” – your inner “hero”.
  2. Valencia! She was my favorite character – wise and clever and stubborn – and so attuned to others’ reactions to her deafness. Someone pointed out that hers is the only point of view told in the first person so maybe that’s why I identified so much with her. It’s a tiny moment but when she describes sneaking tupperware bowls of food into the woods to feed this poor stray dog, and how she never remembers to return them….. I felt like the author captured something so real there. I remember taking my mother’s measuring cups and spoons out to play in the dirt until suddenly we had none left. And there was this one summer where I fed this stray cat in our neighborhood for weeks…one can of tuna fish every day. I felt like there was something very true to preteens about that mix of compassion and cluelessness.
  3. The role of the dog in this book. Like I mentioned, Valencia has befriended this stray dog who lives in the woods. And he doesn’t play a huge part in the story – at first – but his role is crucial in surprising ways later on. He didn’t turn up when I thought he might. But I felt as though he could have known Brodie and Tuck from Good Dog.


x500And the final book I want to talk about this week is Granted by John David Anderson. You probably know him from the incredible Ms. Bixby’s Last Day and Posted. Both of those novels were realistic fiction, male protagonists, with stories centered around school. Granted is totally different – it’s about a fairy named Ophelia Delphinium Fidgets. One of the dwindlingly few fairies in the Haven entrusted with the job of Granter – a fairy who ventures out of their safe community and into the dangerous human world to grant a wish. So – everyday, people wish on stars, or candles or wishbones – and each of those wishes (if they follow the rules) are entered into a lottery of sorts. But in the fairies’ world – their magic has been decreasing and the number of wishes they can grant has plummeted to the point where on Ophelia’s first day on the job only a handful are scheduled to be granted. So she has two problems on her mind – is the wish-granting system they’ve always followed breaking down and if so, what can they do to fix it? And… how to complete her mission to grant one lucky 13 year-old girl’s wish for a purple bike. All Ophelia has to do is fly to Ohio and find the nickel the girl used for her wish. But what should be a routine mission turn into this epic quest that has Ophelia questioning so much of, well – what she took for granted. Here are three things to love about Granted:

  1. The fairies’ names! They receive their middle name first – which comes from the plant where they were born. (Like Rose or Oak or Daffodil). Their last name is given by their Founder – the fairy who discovers the newborn sprite and oversees their early care and adds a name that expresses something about their personality. (Like Fidgets or Crier). And their first name is completely random. So you get names like our protagonist Ophelia Delphinium Fidgets, her best friend Charlie Rhododendron Whistler, May Rose Crier,  or…Gus Fothergilla Gaspasser!
  2. Sam!  The mangy, smelly golden-haired mutt who after first wanting to eat then chew then chase Ophelia, offers to help her track down the wish she must grant. And.. maybe get to eat some donuts along the way. Ophelia is definitely NOT into this arrangement. Their conversations are HILARIOUS!  
  3. Ophelia’s song. So – every fairy has a magical song that they can sing for a particular effect- perhaps enchanting the listener or having a more negative effect. And while most fairies opt for a traditional tune like “Greensleeves” or “Rolling in the Dew” or maybe even a Sinatra song, Ophelia’s song is….  oh I so want to tell you what it is! But you just have to read it! Let’s just say, it’s something more….modern!

Granted and Good Dog, and Hello, Universe are three books that will cast a magical spell on your heart.  


Karina Yan Glaser – Interview Outline

Joining me this month for our Middle Grade at Heart interview with Karina Yan Glaser is author Laurie Morrison. We got an opportunity to sit down together last month to chat about brownstones, balancing your reading life, and of course – The Vanderbeekers!

Take a listen…

The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street

The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina GlaserCA: Can you tell us what this story is about?

LM: I love that the book is so balanced between the Vanderbeekers and has five equally developed main characters. Was one of the kids especially challenging or especially fun for you to write? Do you have any advice for other writers who are working on stories with ensemble casts?

CA: One of the things that made me fall so hard for this book was that vibrant Harlem, New York setting with Castleman’s Bakery and the brownstones and City College in the background…  Was the Vanderbeeker’s neighborhood modeled after your own?

LM: I’ve seen many readers comment that the book feels classic or timeless or old-fashioned. What do you think it is about the book that makes it feel classic to readers?

LM: I noticed that you created the wonderful illustrations inside the book. How did you decide to include those, and were they always a part of the manuscript?

CA: I noticed that you have an adorable bunny! Can she do tricks like Paganini?

Your Writing Life

LM: I’m so excited that there are two more Vanderbeekers stories on the way! Did you always know there would be more than one book, and what has it been like to write more Vanderbeeker adventures?The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden, Final Cover

LM: I know you’re a contributing editor at Book Riot and write a weekly newsletter. That must mean you do a lot of reading and a lot of writing outside of your fiction! How do you balance those different kinds of book-related work?

Your Reading Life

Sometimes it only takes that one adult in a kid’s life to influence them as a reader – either in a positive way to spur them on and spark that passion in them, or sometimes to squelch it.

CA: Was there an adult in your life who impacted you as a reader?

LM: I think The Vanderebeekers of 141st Street would be a fabulous book to read aloud to kids. Do you have any favorite books to read aloud to your own kids or kids you’ve worked with in the past?

CA: What have you been reading lately that you’ve liked?

Karina Glaser-31




Karina’s website – http://www.karinaglaser.com

Karina on Twitter and Instagram

BookRiot’s Children’s Section


Books & Authors We Chatted About:


Charles Darwin’s Around the World Adventure (Jennifer Thermes)

Grandma Gatewood Hikes the Appalachian Trail (Jennifer Thermes)

The Penderwicks at Last (Jeanne Birdsall)

Tuck Everlasting (Natalie Babbitt)

See You in the Cosmos (Jack Cheng)

Ginger Pye (Eleanor Estes)

The Moffats (Eleanor Estes)

The Hundred Dresses (Eleanor Estes)

The Land (Mildred T. Taylor)

Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry (Mildred T. Taylor)

Every Shiny Thing (Laurie Morrison & Cordelia Jensen)

They Say Blue (Jillian Tamaki)

Front Desk (Kelly Yang)

The Right Hook of Devin Velma (Jake Burt)

Greetings From Witness Protection (Jake Burt)


Alright, that wraps up our show this week!

If you have a question about how to connect kids between 8-12 to books they’ll love or a suggestion about a topic we should cover, I would love to hear from you. You can email me at booksbetween@gmail.com or message me on Twitter/Instagram at the handle @Books_Between.

Screen Shot 2018-04-01 at 9.05.40 AMAnd – if you are wanting more discussion focused on middle grade, check out the new podcast called Lifelines: Books That Bridge the Divide hosted by authors Ann Braden and Saadia Faruqi. I’ll drop a link to their first two episodes in our show notes, and I am really excited to see more middle grade podcasts out there.

Books Between is a proud member of the Education Podcast Network. This network EPN_badgefeatures podcasts for educators, created by educators. For more great content visit edupodcastnetwork.com

Thank you so much for joining me this week. You can get an outline of interviews and a full transcript of all the other parts of our show at MGBookVillage.org. And, if you are liking the show, please leave us some love on iTunes or Stitcher so others can discover us as well.

Thanks and see you soon!  Bye!


Corrina Allen is a 5th grade teacher in Central New York and mom of two energetic tween girls. She is passionate about helping kids discover who they are as readers.

Corrina is the host of Books Between – a podcast to help teachers, parents, and librarians connect children between 8 and 12 to books they’ll love.

Find her on Twitter at @corrinaaallen or Instagram at @Corrina_Allen.


MG at Heart Book Club Book Review: THE VANDERBEEKERS OF 141ST STREET by Karina Yan Glaser

The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Glaser.jpeg

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.

The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden, Final Cover

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.

. . .

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!

MG at Heart Book Club’s March Pick

The Middle Grade at Heart book club’s pick for March is . . .


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One of The New York Times’  Notable Children’s Books of 2017: “In this delightful and heartwarming throwback to the big-family novels of yesteryear, a large biracial family might lose their beloved brownstone home, but win it back with an all-out charm offensive.”

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.

★ “Glaser’s love for the Vanderbeekers shines through in her prose and stick drawings. Readers will look forward to future adventures. A highly recommended purchase for all middle grade collections.” —School Library Journal, starred review

★  “Few [families] in children’s literature are as engaging or amusing as the Vanderbeekers.” —Booklist, starred review

“…[Karina Yan Glaser’s] contemporary family narrative preserves the winsome tone and innocence of the aforementioned classics while updating them with a rich, modern diversity of characters, settings and problems….Glaser’s warmhearted story highlights a cold truth: What is often missing in the busy lives of today’s plugged-in, checked-out families is a sense of community. In the vast village of New York City, she suggests, what it takes to raise a child can still be found on one square block.” —The New York Times Book Review

. . .

Our newsletter — including an interview, discussion questions, activity, recipe, and more — will go out March 26. Sign up for it here. Our Twitter chat will happen April 3 at 8 pm EST.

MG at Heart Book Club’s 2018 Book Picks

February: SEE YOU IN THE COSMOS by Jack Cheng

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Amazon   Indiebound


March: THE VANDERBEEKERS OF 141ST STREET by Karina Yan Glaser

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Amazon   Indiebound


April: THE PARKER INHERITANCE by Varian Johnson

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Amazon   Indiebound


May: EVERY SHINY THING by Laurie Morrison and Cordelia Jensen

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Amazon   Indiebound


June: THE MAD WOLF’S DAUGHTER by Diane Magras

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Amazon   Indiebound


July: JUST UNDER THE CLOUDS by Melissa Sarno

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Amazon   Indiebound



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Amazon     Indiebound


September: THE HOUSE THAT LOU BUILT by Mae Respicio

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Amazon     Indiebound


October: THE THREE RULES OF EVERYDAY MAGIC by Amanda Rawson Hill

(cover not yet revealed)

Amazon     Indiebound


November: THE HOTEL BETWEEN by Sean Easley

(cover not yet revealed)

(not yet available for pre-order)