Moving to a new house is never easy. For the five Vanderbeeker children it sounds like the end of the world. On December 20th Mr. Beiderman, their curmudgeonly landlord, tells the family that he wants them out by New Year’s. They have lived all their lives in their Harlem brownstone, and their father has spent his entire life in this neighborhood. Can anywhere else feel like home?
Jessie, Isa, Oliver, Hyacinth and Laney refuse to go down without a fight. They decide to convince Mr. Biederman to let them stay by showering him with kindness. Unfortunately, each plan backfires. As Christmas approaches and Mrs. Vanderbeeker packs up the apartment, the children find it hard to muster any holiday spirit. If only they could discover the reason for his decision, they might be able to formulate just the right strategy to convince him to let them stay.
Karina Glaser’s humorous and warm story about familial and neighborhood ties is a great read for any time of the year. The five Vanderbeekers demonstrate both normal sibling conflicts but also great loyalty and affection. Parents and children alike affirm each other in a natural way, providing a refreshing example of healthy family life. While the author uses some colloquial language, the story is well-written. It is a great option for young readers looking for contemporary titles.
Jennifer Minicus is a teacher living in New Jersey.