The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street, by Karina Yan Glaser
I still read books for kids. When they're extremely well-written, I do a little dance in my head, and I'm right back in a big chair in my hometown library on a Sunday afternoon, curled up in a big chair, blissfully reading. Karina Glaser gifted me with a little childhood today.
The Vanderbeekers are a family of seven living in a brownstone in Harlem, near City College. The characters are people you want to know. The Vanderbeeker kids remind you of your own childhood friends; immediately, you're part of the neighborhood, and you're falling in love with a brownstone on 141st Street.
In an effort not to give anything away, I will just say the story will tug at your heart. The supporting characters are equally interesting: the couple in the apartment above, who welcome the children into their home, Oliver's friends, who dig into their own pockets for him, the Castlemans, the violin teacher, and the Beiderman himself.
There was a moment when my eyes filled with tears, many moments that made me laugh outright, and that fabulous feeling every reader knows -- getting lost in a story, the world falling away, and the print on the page becoming more real than the sofa you're sitting on.
Glaser doesn't waste any time. The story opens with a family meeting, which not only introduces the Vanderbeeker family, but their home as well. When Mama asks, "On a scale of one to ten, how much do you like living here?" you are already hooked, and clinging to the hope that the Beiderman will change his mind, and renew their lease at the end.
Will the Vanderbeekers get to stay in Harlem? Or move to a new neighborhood, and carry on their adventures there?
Meet the twins, Isa and Jessie, Hyacinth and Laney, and their brother Oliver, who gets to live in his own room, even if it is a renovated walk-in closet.
I'm already looking forward to the next Vanderbeeker book, The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden (2018).
Karina Glaser's Website