As a lover of children’s books (which is a good thing because I am an elementary school librarian) I was delighted to be handed a copy of The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser to read. This debut novel for grades 4-6 follows the adventures of the six Vanderbeeker children as they try to save their family home when their curmudgeonly landlord refuses to renew their lease just days before Christmas.
I had the opportunity to interview Karina about her book, and am excited to share with you my questions, and her answers. After reading this blog post, I hope you will be as excited as me to hear her speak on Saturday, May 19th in the Jim Henson Pavilion 2:15-3:05pm.
I’ve read several reviews by adults, and they’re all great, but what are the kids saying about the Vanderbeekers? What is your favorite comment by a young reader?
I love hearing from readers! I have met so many kids through school visits, Skype visits, and book festivals, as well as through social media, email, and snail mail. Most of the kids I speak to ask, “Is there going to be another Vanderbeekers book?” And I happily tell them that the second book is called The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden and that it will come out on September 25, 2018, plus a third Vanderbeekers book is planned for 2019. Getting questions about whether the book is going to be a series is such a compliment because they liked the first book enough to want to read more! I received a beautiful drawing of the brownstones on 141st Street from a reader in Florida a few weeks ago, with a note that said she had bought The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street with money she had received for her eleventh birthday. “It was an outstanding book,” she writes, “and will always be one of my FAVORITE books.” So sweet!
How and why did you decide that Isa (and Luciana) should play the violin – is there personal significance for including a violin in your story?
The violin was incorporated into the story mostly because I love music and wanted to have a classical musician in the Vanderbeeker family. On a practical note, both of my daughters play the violin, and I have picked up some knowledge about the instrument over the years.
The book cover is wonderful — I love the colors and the details of each building. What is your favorite part of the cover art?
I love the book cover as well! Karl James Mountford, the cover artist, is so gifted and I’m glad he picked up this project. I love everything about the cover; it’s so hard to pinpoint a favorite aspect. I do love the kids in the window, the colors of the brownstones, the skyline…
What has surprised you most about your book?
It still surprises me that people have heard about The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street. In February, I was part of middle grade book panel with authors I really admire, and Jacqueline Woodson (Jacqueline Woodson!) came up to me and congratulated me on my book and told me that she had a copy at home and it was her family’s next read aloud. I just about fainted right there.
What are you most looking forward to at our book festival?
I am really looking forward to attending the other panels (so many amazing authors!), and I am super excited to do a session with Hena Khan, middle grade author of Amina’s Voice and Power Forward. I love book festivals because it connects me to readers in a very relaxed and authentic way. I cannot wait!
Melissa McDonald, MLS (GBF Children’s and Teen’s Workshops Coordinator)