There are very few children's books that bring me to tears. Stick with me? Make me think? Sure. Hundreds. But, I can probably count the scenes that made me blubber on one hand. There is the death of Aslan at the hand of the White Witch. Harry Potter witnessing his sworn enemy murder his father figure and mentor. And...that is all that come to mind. Until last week, that is. I read November's book club selection, The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser, aloud to my three children. Everyone from my temperamental 10 year old son to my precocious eight year old twin girls to my almost forty year old husband who listens in on story time while making school lunches absolutely loved this book. We were all in agreement that Jessie should have come clean to Isa earlier about her altercation with Benny about the dance. We also thought it was a mistake to put the twelve year olds in charge of Christmas Eve dinner. We marveled at the sheer number of animals who reside in the brownstone. And we laughed every time the kids mentioned eating cookies instead of healthier snacks (spoiler alert, it's a lot!) But for me this book really sets itself apart from other enjoyable yet ultimately forgettable tales when the Vanderbeeker children finally meet their landlord known among them as "The Beiderman." In this scene, Mr. Beiderman admits he is evicting the Vanderbeeker family because bearing witness to their day to day life is too hard given the untimely death of his wife and daughter years earlier. As I read how Isa's violin playing reminded him of his own daughter's musical talent, my voice broke and I had to take a moment to compose myself. The children were quiet and rubbed my arm until I was ready to continue. Thankfully the book takes a much happier turn in the next chapter and we were back to laughing at Laney's antics shortly. But none of us will forget that poignant scene and The Vanderbeekers has earned its spot as one of our family's absolute favorites. I will be gifting the sequel to the kids (and to myself) on Christmas morning.
The kids thoughts:
Sabine - I give this book 10 stars because it was really funny. One part I liked was when Laney gets a Christmas tree and it was tiny and kind of bare, but they decorate it anyway. Another part I liked was when Mr. Beiderman lets the Vanderbeekers stay. The happy ending was why I gave it 10 stars.
Lourdes: I give The Vanderbeekers 10 stars because I like how all the chapters leave you wanting more and on a cliffhanger. It makes me excited for the next chapter and for the next day when we read again. I think kids would like this book because the Vanderbeekers do a lot of funny things. I also like when Hyacinth gave Mr. Beiderman a kitten because it was really sweet. That is why I gave it 10 stars.
Finnegan: I give this book 10 stars because it was very funny and exciting. One part I liked was when Oliver slips the challenge to a duel under The Beiderman's door. I also liked when Laney had Paganini (her bunny) learn tricks. One part I didn't like was when Jessie doesn't tell Isa that Benny wanted to go to the dance with her.