Title: The Vanderbeekers and the Secret Garden
Series: The Vanderbeekers #2
Author: Karina Yan Glaser
Genres: Middle Grade Fiction
Return to Harlem’s “wildly entertaining” family in this funny, heartwarming sequel. When catastrophe strikes their beloved upstairs neighbors, the Vanderbeeker children set out to build the best, most magical healing garden in Harlem–in spite of a locked fence, thistles and trash, and the conflicting plans of a wealthy real estate developer.
While Isa is off at sleepaway orchestra camp, Jessie, Oliver, Hyacinth, and Laney are stuck at home in the brownstone with nothing to do but get on one another’s nerves. But when catastrophe strikes their beloved upstairs neighbor, their sleepy summer transforms in an instant as the Vanderbeeker children band together to do what they do best: make a plan. They will create the most magical healing garden in all of Harlem.
In this companion to The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street, experience the warmth of a family and their community as they work together to bring a little more beauty and kindness to the world, one thwarted plan at a time.
Do you ever read a book that makes you teary-eyed the entire time, because the book is just so lovely and wonderful? Because that’s definitely what this book did for me.
I already fell in love with the Vanderbeeker family, a biracial family with five kids and their pets living in Harlem, while reading the first book in this series, The Vanderbeekers of 141st street. Every single member of the family is incredibly loving and caring, but they’re also all their own person. Usually when I’m reading a book with quite a few characters they end up kind of blurring together, but that definitely didn’t happen with this book. I can remember every single name and even the things that make each of these characters unique, and from someone as forgetful as I am, that’s quite high praise.
In this book, The Vanderbeeker kids try to create a garden for their upstairs neighbors, Mr. Jeet and Miss Josie, after Mr. Jeet has a stroke. The kids were incredibly worried about Mr. Jeet (and after falling in love with his character in book one, I was right there with them), but the fact that they managed to distract themselves by putting so much energy in making this garden was lovely to see.
I loved reading about the garden. I loved reading about the kids working in it, about them learning about plants, about them trying to save it, etc. And I also quite enjoyed all of the Secret Garden references. Just, the entire book was so wonderful.
One of my favourite parts about this series, though, is Mr. Beiderman, and the way that they treat him. Mr. Beiderman is their landlord, and (spoiler for book one) his wife and daughter passed away in a car accident a few years ago. Middle grade books often tend to glance over heavy things like grief, but this one definitely didn’t. Mr. Beiderman has an incredibly hard time sometimes, and the kids are very respectful towards that. They try to cheer him up, but they also realize that they’re not going to be able to fix the situation, and there’s even a scene in which the youngest kid says “It’s okay, Mr. Beiderman. Mama always says healing takes time.”
Honestly, I love everything about this book. The characters, their adventures, the way it doesn’t shy away from more serious topics, the messages it sends, etc. In my opinion, this is the perfect middle grade book, and I know I’ll probably reread it many times.
Also, in case you were wondering; yes, writing this review made me tear up again. Please don’t judge me.