December 12th, 2021 by Karen
Have you ever found a book where it felt like you were being hugged gently the whole time you were reading it — maybe not by arms that might squish you too hard, but more like a hammock that surrounds and fits you perfectly but also gives you a great view? Well, that’s the experience I had when I read The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser.
I love books about big families, little neighborhoods, baked goods, and the winter holidays — and this book has them all!!! The story begins five days before Christmas when the Vanderbeeker family learns that their grumpy landlord, Mr. Beiderman, is kicking them out of their home in the new year. They live on the bottom floors of a brownstone building in New York City, and Mr. Beiderman lives on the top floor. Mr. Beiderman likes things to be quiet, whereas life is always kind of noisy and chaotic for the Vanderbeekers (with five children, two parents, a home bakery business, and an always-changing number of pets). But this is their perfect home, and the Vanderbeeker kids are not going to let it go without a fight! So Isa, Jessie, Oliver, Hyacinth, and Laney launch an all-out operation to convince Mr. Beiderman that he should change his mind and let them stay.
As you can imagine, the Vanderbeekers’ attempts to persuade Mr. Beiderman don’t always go according to plan. Homemade gifts turn into calamities. Attempts to show neighbor support only enrage Mr. Beiderman more. And sometimes the Vanderbeekers even end up fighting with each other! Can they come together and win over Mr. Beiderman before moving day? Personally, I found it truly delightful to watch them try!
This book reminded me of some of my longtime favorites, including the Melendy Quartet by Elizabeth Enright, the Penderwick series by Jeanne Birdsall, and Pinky Pye by Eleanor Estes. If you’re also a fan of sweet stories featuring large families and a timeless feeling, then I think you’re going to love this book. And fortunately for both you and me, there are five books in the series! So I encourage you to pick up the first book now — perfect for the cozy winter holiday break — and then continue spending more time and seasons with characters who may very well become your new favorite literary family.
Have YOU read the Vanderbeekers books? Or do you have other favorites that make you feel like you’re enveloped in a wonderful hammock hug, like I do with this series? Leave a comment below!
Karen also looooooooves stories involving large families, a timeless feeling, and a little bit of gentle magic — like the Half Magic books by Edward Eager and Any Which Wall by Laurel Snyder. If you like the Vanderbeekers, you might like those too!