The Vanderbeekers of 141st St by Karina Yan Glaser
A charming middle grade story of a family with five children who live on the first two floors of a New York brownstone on 141st St. Just before Chrstimas, they receive a notice from their landlord that their lease, which expires at the end of the month, will not be renewed. The family is devastated, as they love their home very much. The kids gather together and formulate a plan to win over the crotchety widower landlord who lives on the upper floor and convince him to renew their lease. As they begin enacting their plan, their acts of kindness go awry left and right, and serve only to further irritate their landlord. But then fate and research bring them to people who knew their landlord years ago, and know the story behind his life that has led him to be so crotchety, especially toward a family with beautiful, vibrant children, and this knowledge, and what they do with it, leads to everyone's hearts being opened.
I've seen this one praised as a modern classic left and right, and indeed it is a sweet little story, in the vein of Five Little Peppers and How They Grew that was beloved in my childhood years. It's a fun look at the unique experience of growing up as a child in New York City, when so many children's books focus on children who live in suburbia or the country, and also is lovely for focusing on a large family, as that is becoming a more and more unique experience. Each of the children has a definite unique personality, and the sibling relationship is beautifully portrayed. If I have one criticism, it's that there is a sibling jealousy/mean girl storyline in the book that was troubling for my daughter as we read the book, and I wish that the parents would have taken a more active role in helping the girls work it out, but it gave me a good chance to talk about how I would have handled things differently had the incident happened to my daughter, and although there were tears during the scene, at the end she still says that she loved the book.
I am surprised that this book has not been marketed more as a holiday story, as it is set completely in the week surrounding Christmas, and I'd highly recommend it as a lovely, family-friendly holiday read for families with middle grade children.