A few days before Christmas the Vanderbeeker family finds out they will have to leave their beloved brownstone by the end of the month—or will they?
When their landlord, Mr. Beiderman, decides not to renew their lease, the Vanderbeeker kids—12-year-old twins Isa and Jessie, 9-year-old Oliver, 6-year-old Hyacinth, and 4 (and ¾)–year-old Laney—spring into action to make him change his mind. They have neighbors sign a petition; Isa records a CD of her violin playing; Jessie builds a science project; Oliver writes a haiku; Hyacinth gives him a kitten; and Laney does a picture of the brownstone. Though the final outcome is predictable, it is the warm and supportive depiction of family, friends, and community that carries this book forward. The family is described as biracial, though what the two races are is not clear. (Mama has “stick-straight black hair” and dark eyes; Papa has “wild, untamable hair” and light eyes.) Set in Harlem, but with Dutch, German, and English names, the community feels white. The children are well-developed and wise beyond their years. They are also charged with duties beyond their years: the twins for example, are given the task of preparing the Christmas dinner for seven adults and five children.
A heartwarming story about family and community that will appeal to readers who also enjoy an old-fashioned feel. (Fiction. 8-12)