The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by by Karina Yan Glaser Book Review

Thursday, 24 December 2020

Title: The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street
Author: Karina Yan Glaser
Publication date: 3rd October 2017
Page length: 297
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Genre: fiction

About the book
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 a few days before Christmas, 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.

I was doing some Googling for light-hearted, fun Christmas books and I came across the Vanderbeekers of 141st Street and I won't lie, it was the cover that completely got me. I'm a sucker for a beautifully illustrated book cover and I'm also a sucker for books set in New York, so this one instantly jumped out to me.

Now for the disclaimer: this IS a middle-grade book aimed at children 10+ years old.

Having said that, I personally really enjoyed this book and I'm 26 years old, so definitely, definitely do not let the target age group put you off. The story is charming and entertaining and I was completely absorbed in the Vanderbeeker kids and their shananigans and I found it the perfect easy, absorbing, comforting Christmas read.

I found the story really realistic and really warmed to each of the Vanderbeeker children. Each had their own individual personality and even the minor characters had enough depth to them so that they never felt like filler characters. I love reading about large, chaotic families (probably because I'm an only child!) and this book was exactly about that. There were five siblings (two of which are twins), two parents, a dog, a cat & a house bunny. Plus all their lovely neighbours and friends that give a real sense of community to this book. I loved reading all about Harlem and how much the children loved living there. The family dynamic was wonderful and I loved reading about their connection to their home and the emotions surrounding the possibility of having to let it go.

The story was really well written and held my attention from beginning to end. Something significant happened in each chapter and the story just flowed really well. I really enjoyed the illustrations throughout the book (there's floor plans, diagrams, newspaper cuttings, maps etc) and I imagine if I was reading this aged 10, I would have loved looking at these. I find something that illustrations throughout books can be a bit misplaced, but these enhanced the story further and were a lovely added extra.

For me, this is was a sweet - but not overly sweet - story that had a lot of emotion in it. There is a great messaged at the heart of the book and I would have absolutely loved this when I was younger. Heck, I loved it as an adult and for readers who enjoy seasonal books, this is a great choice for this time of year.

Verdict: ★★★★

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