Karina Yan Glaser
Houghton Mifflin, 2017 296 pages
Different Points of view relate the story of the Vanderbeeker family, long time residents of a Harlem brownstone. A family of five children is not a usual sight in New York City and finding a living space to accommodate such a family is no easy task. The family has been happily ensconced in the 141st brownstone for all of the children's lives when out of the blue the grouchy landlord and upstairs neighbor, Mr. Beiderman, has evicted them. And it's Christmas. The days before this important holiday have the Vanderbeeker children scurrying to find gifts for each other, keep up with their family traditions, Stay out of Mom's way while she is trying to pack and prepare, and scheming to concoct a plan to convince The Beiderman (as they call him) to let them stay. Their plans include getting the neighborhood to sign a petition, bringing him delicious pastries, constructing cheerful decorations, and leaving a kitten on his doorstep. Every plan ends in disaster. With help from friends in the neighborhood the kids finally do some sleuthing and conduct some research on The Beiderman, unearthing secrets about his past which explain his crabby behavior. Can they break through to him before it's too late? Meanwhile, one of the oldest twins is experiencing first love, despite the interference of her sister. Various interpersonal interactions, unpredictable pets and misunderstandings makes for never a dull moment in this madcap house with this crazy and heartfelt family.
Glaser has envisioned a classic American family in the tradition of the Melendys and the Penderwicks with a modern twist. Despite the old-school highbrow New York City name, the Vanderbeekers are a multiracial clan living within a diverse neighborhood. The children are so creative, unique, and unjaded that they feel homeschooled, but they do attend public school. Something about the family reminds me of the clan from All of a Kind Family. Maybe it is the New York setting, possibly the family is mostly all-girl makeup, or it could just be the cozy feel of the story. The book is contemporary and modern, yet has an old-fashioned feel to it. This is really a character piece. The struggle to convince The Beiderman to let them stay is the plot that keeps the story together to introduce this family to children and to give them something to do. At first I had a hard time keeping the children straight, but Glaser draws everyone distinctly enough that I knew them all pretty quickly. Poor Mrs. Vanderbeeker! If getting ready for Christmas with five children isn't hard enough, she has to find a new place to live and pack up their whole lives. I felt for the poor woman, although she seemed pretty calm under the circumstances, although that could just be because we are hearing the story from a child’s perspective. Both boys and girls will enjoy this book. It would make an excellent family read-aloud. The story keeps moving along with enough tension and suspense to keep the readers turning pages, while infused with truly funny bits. I can see sequels in Glaser's future and readers will want to revisit their new friends for another cozy adventure.