The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser
Publisher: HMH BFYR
Published: October 2017
Genre: middle grade, contemporary
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.
The five Vanderbeeker siblings adore their home in Harlem. It’s close to their parents’ work, it’s close to school, their best friends live nearby, all the coolest people (the mailman, the baker, their elderly neighbors next door) greet them each day — what’s not to love? Well, The Beiderman — Mr. Beiderman, as Dad keeps reminding them — is not too great. He’s not letting the Vanderbeekers renew their lease, and he’s kicking them out of the building before Christmas!
This book is, in many ways, a love letter to Harlem, to neighborhood camaraderie, to homes that are more than a space to live in with a roof over your head. It’s a great story about family and perseverance, silly antics, imaginative and creative children, friendship, and neighborly love. Even though it’s set during the Christmas season, it’s perfect for any time of year.
The siblings believe The Beiderman is a crochety old man because he has never known joy in his life. So what he needs this Christmas is some good ol’ cheering up — and that’ll make him renew their parents’ lease. They come up with all sorts of clever, funny, and silly ideas, from bringing up tea to delivering scheming notes a la noir crime, to delivering a kitten in a box to playing a violin with such passion and determination it makes the man cry.
The Beiderman’s history comes about in pieces, fitting together like a puzzle till the very end with the violin music, and — like most Grinch/Scrooge tales — a change of heart and understanding of character. It’s a good, heartwarming story, bound to be a favorite for middle grade readers. There’s a character for everyone in here!