Book review: The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden, by Karina Yan Glaser

Glaser, Karina Yan. The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden. Harcourt, 2018. $16.99. 327p. ISBN 978-1-328-77002-8. Ages 9-12. P7Q8

The lovable family and neighbors of The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street return in this sequel about creating a garden and a community to help elderly Mr. Jeet, who is in the hospital with his second stroke and to give a job to Mr. Beiderman, who refuses to leave his apartment since his wife and daughter died six years earlier. One of the five biracial Vanderbeeker siblings living in Harlem has gone to an orchestra camp, leaving the other four to break into the lot next to the church where they want to put the garden, arrange for everything they need, and thwart the efforts of a church member to sell the lot to a developer.

Verdict: The delightful warmth and growth of characters and their relationships skillfully combine a style of youth fiction from the mid-20th century with contemporary socio-economic issues. The children—ages 5 through 12—are realistic in their disagreements and antics, but they ultimately show respect and kindness for each other as do the adults.

January 2019 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: The Aurora County All-Stars, by Deborah Wiles

Wiles, Deborah.  The Aurora County All-Stars. Harcourt, Inc., 2007.  $16.00.  ISBN 978-0-15-206068-8. 237 p.  Gr. 5 and up. P8Q8

wiles-aurora-county-all-starsHouse Jackson’s elbow has healed and he’s ready to resume his duties as star pitcher and captain of the Aurora County All-Stars, an all boys baseball team that gets to play one game this summer.  Unfortunately, the game is scheduled on the same day as the Aurora County bi-centennial celebration.  House and his nemesis, Ruby, must figure out a compromise so the game and pageant can both go on.

Verdict: I started this book several times and could not get into it.  When I realized it was a part of a series it made sense.  I realized I was stepping into the middle of well-established characters’ lives.  After I gave up the need to understand the backstories, I found I could enjoy it more.  Wiles writes with humor and understanding.  This book has received a starred review from Publishers Weekly.  I think to understand that star rating, you’ll need to read the others in the series.

October 2016 review by Shelly Jones.

[Editor’s note: This is the third title in the Aurora County trilogy, beginning with Love, Ruby Lavender; then Each Little Bird that Sings; and, finally, The Aurora County All-Stars.]

Book review: Come Juneteenth, by Ann Rinaldi

Rinaldi, Ann. Come Juneteenth. Harcourt, 2007. $17.00. ISBN 978-0-15-205947-7. 233 p. Gr. 5 – 7. P6Q7

rinaldi-come-juneteenthLuli lives with her Mom, Pa, brother, and a girl named Sis Goose.  Sis Goose is a great friend to Luli.  Sis Goose is told she is still a slave two years after Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.  Luli’s family keeps it a secret from her as does the rest of Texas keep the news from their slave population.  One day soldiers arrive and tell Sis Goose she is free and this almost tears apart their family.

The reviewer didn’t find this a very interesting book because of the lack of action.  She also didn’t like the inclusion of some foul language.

September 2016 review by student: A. P.


Book review: The Watcher in the Shadows

Moriarty, Chris. The Watcher in the Shadows. Illus. Mark Edward Geyer. Harcourt, 2013. $16.99. 326p. 978-0-547-46632-3. Ages 12+: The magical boy from The Inquisitor’s Apprentice returns in another story about New York City at the beginning of the 20th century. Sacha is still hiding his background living in the tenements of the Lower East Side from wealthy friend Lily as they work with Inspector Wolf. But the new case, solving the Klezmer King’s murder, brings Sacha closer to his home with his spell-casting rabbi grandfather, seamstress sister at the Pentacle Shirtwaist Factor, and his mother who is willing to sabotage Sacha’s efforts to save his soul. When the evil J.P. Morgaunt sets Sacha’s dybbuk free, the 13-year-old has more than the murder to worry about. The plot is a combination of historical fiction and mobs with a layer of magic and steampunk. The characters are memorable, so real that the reader could actually know them, and the adventure fast-paced. P8Q9 March 2014 review by Nel Ward

Book review: Lives of the Scientists: Experiments, Explosions (and What the Neighbors Thought)

Krull, Kathleen. Lives of the Scientists: Experiments, Explosions (and What the Neighbors Thought). Illus. Kathryn Hewitt. Harcourt, 2013. $20.99. 96p. 978-0-152-05909-5. Ages 10-14: The author and editor continue their Lives of … series with the same format: brief biographies that include juicy tidbits about and caricatures of people who have changed the world. These is some balance in ethnic background and gender of these 20 famous scientists from across the globe and throughout time. Those searching for scientific information instead of biographical quirks are advised to go elsewhere. P7Q7 March 2014 review by Nel Ward.