The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street


 After seeing several of my friends on social media post about reading The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser, I decided this was a book I needed to purchase for myself and give it a read.  Now that I have read it, I can tell you that I am in agreement with my friends that this book is delightful, lovely, and heart-melting.  Glaser’s book tells the story of the Vanderbeeker family who inhabit the first floor of a Brownstone in Harlem, New York City.  At the beginning of the story, the reader—along with the five Vanderbeeker siblings—finds out that their curmudgeonly landlord Mr. Beiderman is not renewing their lease for the next year, and they will have to find another place to call home.  Isa, Jessie, Oliver, Hyacinth, and Laney feel a tinge of guilt upon hearing this news, as they believe this decision is because of them.  To quote the book, “Among the many people who had visited the Vanderbeeker household there was quite a bit of debate about what it was like, but general agreement about what it was NOT: calm, tidy, boring, predictable.”  Refusing to succumb to the Beiderman’s sentence, the five siblings decide to undertake the task of convincing him to change his mind by Christmas.  The only problem? They only have 4 and a half days to do it.

As the reader embarks on this mission with the Vanderbeeker children, we meet their lovely friends and neighbors along the way.  From their 3rd floor neighbors Miss Josie and Mr. Jeet to the Castlemans who own the neighborhood bakery, I felt the love and comradery of this little community nestled within such a huge city.  One of the things I love about New York City is the diversity: millions of people who bring diverse cultures, food, celebrations, and beauty to the city. It all comes together in a magnificent tapestry.  This is excellently reflected in Glaser’s book, and even the Vanderbeekers themselves, a biracial family, show us this beauty.

I went through several emotions as I read this book.  I felt angry for the Vanderbeekers.  I laughed at the quirks of each of the Vanderbeeker children, and I remembered having some of those same quirks when I was a child.  Ultimately, my heart was warmed by this book.  Many wonderful themes are woven throughout: the sense of community, the love of this family for each other and their neighborhood, forgiveness, humility, joy and sorrow, and kindness.  Each page brought out the emotions within, but after reading page 279, I found myself sitting in the puddle of my own heart.

The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street is a lovely book for all ages to enjoy.  I would recommend this for a read-aloud book as it would be fun to read with your own family or with your classroom if you are a teacher.  This book gets five stars from me!  Thank you, Karina Yan Glaser for sharing the Vanderbeekers with us!  I look forward to reading more of their adventures!

Review written by Lauren Keen 

13: Johnny Tremain

Johnny Tremain

Happy New Year! In our first episode of 2018, we discuss the 1944 Newbery Medal winner Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes. Esther takes her readers right into 1775 and the beginnings of the American Revolution as well as the daily struggles the people of that time period endured. Grab a blanket and some tea and listen to our conversation about this exciting book showcasing the dawning of the American Revolution in Boston, Massachusetts.

Show Notes

  • It’s COLD here in the Midwest as we record this episode! Brrr!!!
  • We share some of the books we have been reading over the past few months.
  • Leah and Lauren both met their reading goals for 2017! They each read 50 books!
  • Lauren gives thanks to those who have helped her reach her reading goal.
  • Leah and Lauren encourage Mandy to try audiobooks.
  • Mandy continues to impress us with her books news.
  • We discuss how Esther Forbes along with many of the other authors we have discussed have had trouble thriving in the traditional school setting, yet have overcome their obstacles and created some amazing works.
  • Esther’s writing process
  • Historical Fiction and how it can encourage children to want to learn more about history
  • Remember the Dear America books?
  • American History books and leaving out certain details to paint America in a better light
  • The importance of teaching children how to think as opposed to simply regurgitating information
  • Esther does such a good job of taking her readers into the story. We felt like we were there. We were able to sympathize with the characters.
  • Life doesn’t always turn out the way we think.
  • We discuss the interesting details of the Boston Tea Party
  • “Make sure you sweep up after you finish dumping the tea!”
  • The Royals: Leah and Lauren discuss The Crown and how fascinating it is that the royal family is still around.
  • We discuss how much times have changed since 1775
  • “Half the time, I didn’t understand what they were talking about.” —Leah
  • Lauren started a word journal because of this book. She needs to expand her vocabulary.
  • Were there female apprenticeships back then?
  • 1944 Newbery Honor Books: These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder (Harper), Fog Magic by Julia Sauer (Viking), Rufus M. by Eleanor Estes (Harcourt), Mountain Born by Elizabeth Yates (Coward)
  • Mandy announces our book for next month!
  • The team talks about their favorite Newbery books they read in 2017. We all LOVE Flora and Ulysses the best! “Kate [Di’Camillo], you’re the winner of 2017!”
  • Mandy confesses whey she did not finish reading this month’s book: She has been spending too much time playing video games.

Links related to this episode: 

Amazon link to Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes

Amazon link to Wonder the book by R.J. Palacio

Amazon link to Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein

Amazon link to The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore

Amazon link to Feathers by Jacqueline Woodson

Amazon link to Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve

Teaser Trailer for Mortal Engines the movie

Harry Potter a History of Magic NYC

Jacqueline Woodson named this year’s ambassador for young people’s literature

Best books of 2017

Johnny Tremain on Goodreads:

Esther Forbes

Our personal contact info: 

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Mandalay Parkman –

Lauren Keen –

Also look for each of us on Goodreads!

Intro Music: “Feeling Good” by Royalty Free Copyright Music

Ending Music: “Ukelele” by Royalty Free Music from Bensound
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