Book Review: The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street

05EE8F67-9BDE-4A73-A404-A9A6E4DA9DCBTitle: The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street
Author: Karina Yan Glaser
Publisher: HMH
Publication Date: October 3, 2017

From HMH: A modern classic in the making reminiscent of the Penderwicks series, The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street is about the connections we make and the unexpected turns life can take.
The Vanderbeekers have always lived in the brownstone on 141st Street. It’s practically another member of the family. So when their reclusive, curmudgeonly landlord decides not to renew their lease, the five siblings have eleven days to do whatever it takes to stay in their beloved home and convince the dreaded Beiderman just how wonderful they are. And all is fair in love and war when it comes to keeping their home.

Netgalley and HMH provided me an advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

My Review: The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street is THE middle grade book of the year! I received an advanced copy from Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for my honest review and am so glad I requested this book. My husband and I took turns reading to our daughters for bedtime reading making it a lovely family affair. My only regret is reading it in October when it’s so perfect for the holiday season.
The Vanderbeekers are a charming and quintessential family – a diverse family of seven with the most adorable pets, a dog named Franz, a cat named George Washington and a bunny named Paganini. They live in a brownstone in Harlem amongst a close community. The Vanderbeekers have always lived in their beloved brownstone but when their lease is threatened by their awful landlord, The Biederman, the children come together to roll out their most creative and resourceful selves to appease The Biederman. A heart-wrenching event tests their empathy and compassion which made me love the Vanderbeekers so much.
My kids are gifting this book for friends’ birthdays because it belongs in the hands of every middle grade child (and adults too!). I cannot wait for the sequel in 2018!

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Book Review: From The Mixed Up Files Of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

273CA794-CE9C-43E1-8C5D-E9554330853CTitle: From the Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
Author: E.L. Konigsburg
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: September 2007 (originally published in 1967)
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

From Simon & Schuster: When suburban Claudia Kincaid decides to run away, she knows she doesn’t just want to run from somewhere she wants to run to somewhere—to a place that is comfortable, beautiful, and preferably elegant. She chooses the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Knowing that her younger brother, Jamie, has money and thus can help her with the serious cash flow problem she invites him along.

Once settled into the museum, Claudia and Jamie, find themselves caught up in the mystery of an angel statue that the museum purchased at an auction for a bargain price of $250. The statue is possibly an early work of the Renaissance master Michelangelo, and therefore worth millions. Is it? Or isn’t it? Claudia is determined to find out. This quest leads Claudia to Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, the remarkable old woman who sold the statue and to some equally remarkable discoveries about herself.

My Review: FROM THE MIXED UP FILES OF MRS. BASIL E. FRANKWEILER is a testament of timeless literature and it’s no surprise sealed itself a Newbery Award and still a favourite among both children and adults fifty years later.

I immediately fell in love with Claudia and Jamie. Their plan to run away and take up residence in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and learn alongside the visiting school groups exudes creativity and yearning for knowledge alongside their financial savviness and street smarts sucked me into this unique story.

The brief afterward is every bit as good as the story itself. The comparisons between then and now are thought provoking and nostalgic.

This story is good old fashioned literature at its finest and a book that should be on every child’s bookshelf.

Book Review: George’s Secret Key to the Universe

IMG_0919Title: George’s Secret Key to the Universe
Author: Lucy & Stephen Hawking
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Young Readers
Publication Date: January 2011
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

From Simon & Schuster: Stephen Hawking and his daughter, Lucy, provide a grand and funny adventure that explains fascinating information about our universe, including Dr. Hawking’s latest ideas about black holes. It’s the story of George, who’s taken through the vastness of space by a scientist, his daughter, and their super-computer named Cosmos.

My Review: If your young reader enjoys science and technology and action and adventure then s/he will love GEORGE’S SECRET KEY TO THE UNIVERSE. If you follow me over on Instagram (@readingcolumn) you know I’ve been reading this super fun book at bedtime to my three daughters and they loved it! And this book is the gateway to getting my reluctant reader (who loves science and math) to start reading on her own without me hounding her to read. Win-win!

George is a curious boy whose parents don’t believe in technology and want him to stay away from their science-y neighbours, Eric and his daughter Annie. When George’s pet pig Freddy wanders into Annie’s backyard his curiosity gets the best of him and he quickly finds himself in what appears at first glance an abandoned house but turns out is occupied by Annie, Eric and their super-computer Cosmos. Cosmos sends George, Annie and Eric into outer space to find a habitable planet but George’s evil teacher Dr. Reaper wants to steal Cosmos and use the super computer for his own sordid agenda.

This book is fast-paced, fact-filled and includes lots of outer space graphics and fun facts. I highly recommend this book to any youngster who is curious about space exploration.

Book Review: I Survived the Eruption of Mount St. Helens, 1980

IMG_0860Title: I Survived the Eruption of Mount St. Helens, 1980
Author: Lauren Tarshis
Publisher: Scholatic
Publication Date: August 30, 2016
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 / 5

From Scholastic: It was one the most beautiful mountains in America, Mt. St. Helens, in Washington State. But what many didn’t know was that this peaceful mountain had an explosive past. For more than a century, it had been quiet. But below ground, pressure had been building, and soon, Kaboom! Mt. St. Helens would erupt with terrifying fury. Eleven-year-old Sally Tanner knew the mountain well, and like many, she never imagined that this serene wilderness could turn deadly. But on May 10th, 1980, Sally finds herself in the middle of the deadliest volcanic eruption in U.S. history. Trapped on the mountain, she must escape clouds of poisonous gas, boiling rivers, and landslides of rock, glacial ice, and white-hot debris. The newest book in the I Survived series will take readers into one of the most dramatic events in recent U.S. history where they will meet one of nature’s most devastating forces.

My Review: I’m drawn to the I Survived series because I like learning about real life natural disasters and I want my kids to learn about these important events in a context that’s fun and engaging.

There are two reasons I grabbed this book: First, I was six years old when Mount St. Helens erupted and fascinated by this enormous and catastrophic event. Second, this book is the only one in the series that features a girl as the main character and on the book cover, and as a mother of three girls this is pretty empowering.

This story covers the fast-paced action of events leading up to and after the eruption of Mount St. Helens and also treasures that are near and dear to us. Jessie loses the camera her late father left her in the eruption. I didn’t quite understand the reason for adding the part about the witch in the forest because it didn’t lend to the story.

I bought this book for my daughters and I listened to the audiobook for this review and we all enjoyed it.