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

The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser

The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser
Rating: 4.5 stars

The Vanderbeekers, are a mixed race family with five children living in a brownstone in New York City. The siblings consist of 12 year old twins Isa and Jessie, 9 year old Oliver, 6 year old Hyacinth, and 4 year old Laney. They also have a pet dog, cat, and bunny. They rent their apartment from their grumpy and mean third floor landlord Mr. Biederman. They also have an elderly couple as second floor neighbors who are basically part of their family. In an unexplained act of cruelty, “The Biederman” tells the Vanderbeeker family that he will not allow them to renew their lease, giving them less than two weeks at the end of December to find somewhere else to live. As the only home they’ve ever known and as much a part of their identity as their family members, the siblings ban together to come up with a variety of plans to try and change Mr. Biederman’s mind to let them stay in their apartment.

This is another middle grade book that I chose to read because of the cover. I love the cover! I was also hoping I’d read it, fall in love with it, and share it with Caden. I did love it, but I’m not sure it’s the type of book Caden would enjoy (not enough adventure). But I’d highly recommend it for any young to middle grade readers who enjoy heartwarming and family focused reads. The book is definitely entertaining enough for an adult. It takes place around Christmas, though is not necessarily Christmas driven. It’s more about their family, the community that supports them, and the love they want to extend to the people in their lives.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It was endearing and sweet. Each sibling had very clearly defined personalities and roles they took in the family. They got into regular sibling arguments, but also continued to act as teammates with the ultimate goal of saving their brownstone. They focus on acts of kindness and manage to maintain an optimistic attitude about their change in circumstances. It’s a wonderfully positive and charming story. Pick it up for yourself, or the young reader in your life!

Book Review: Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder

Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder

Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder
Rating: 3 stars

Orphan Island is a mysterious place where nine orphans of ascending age live their lives. Each year a new young orphan arrives (described like a 2 year old at first, but probably 4-5) on a green boat and the eldest of the bunch (an exact age is never given, but I’m guessing around 14 or 15) is taken away. Each child is assigned tasks to help out with their living situation on the island and life is pretty good. There’s always unanswered questions at the back of their minds, especially when a new Charge arrives and is missing their mama. But for the most part the kids are content. The island is a bit magical and protects the children from harm, as long as they follow the main rule – only nine orphans on the island at a time.

This book takes place at the arrival of Ess, the departure of Deen, and the transition of Jinny becoming the newest Elder. A bit more frustrated with the unknown, she begins to challenge a few of the rules and when another charge, Loo, arrives a year later, she decides to stay. This upsets the balance of the island and bad things start to happen.

Overall, this book had the potential to really be unique. And I adore the cover. I was hoping I’d love the book so much I could justify buying it for its beauty! But I found myself to be quite frustrated with all the unanswered questions. It is a middle grade read, so if I were perhaps a younger reader I wouldn’t be so desperate to know exactly what circumstances are behind the island! There is reference to Abigail, one of the original “orphans” who left behind a letter she had written to her mother. There is also the occasional observation how a set of children are extremely similar in looks and a different set of children share their looks as well. I finished the book really wishing there was more. If you don’t mind unanswered questions, it’s definitely worth a read. If that bothers you as much as me – skip this one!