Sunday, January 23, 2022

"The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden" by Karina Yan Glaser

As much as I loved The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street, I loved The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden even more.  I very much enjoy gardening myself, especially growing flowers, so I had a great time reading about the Vanderbeeker kids and their efforts to create a community garden.  

The kids want to make a beautiful garden in an empty lot down the street as a special surprise for their upstairs neighbors, Miss Josie and Mr. Jeet.  Miss Josie always has plants and flowers growing in their apartment, and when Mr. Jeet has to spend a lot of time in the hospital, the kids want to cheer both their beloved friends up with this special plan.  Along the way to accomplishing it, they make some new friends, thwart an enemy's plans, and learn some good little lessons about property, kindness, and hope.

I've read some criticism of this series for being about kids who do things without their parents' permission or knowledge.  And, it's true, they don't ask their parents if they could surprise their aging neighbors with a beautiful garden in an abandoned lot down the street.  But... they're trying to make this a surprise for their parents, too.  Kind of hard to have something be a surprise, but also tell the people you're trying to surprise all about it.  They DO ask permission to use the lot from the pastor of the church that is next to the lot and owns the land, and they get tacit permission to use it.  In fact, they get more permission to use it for a garden than a certain adult gets who wants to use it for something else.  Later, they don't ask before they take something their friend says isn't needed or wanted where it is, and they face real consequences for that.  

Taking-without-asking is not treated lightly here, and it's made clear that that's not the same as keeping a secret.  It's not a secret about someone doing something wrong, or a secret they're keeping so they don't get into trouble.  So I really don't see this as a problem.  I had plenty of secrets from my parents.  I don't ask my kids what they're doing every minute of the day.  I'm not saying anyone who has concerns about this issue with regard to these books is a helicopter parent, but I don't see the Vanderbeekers as sly or deceitful, just in love with the idea of surprises.

ANYWAY!  Totally loved this book.  Already looking forward to when I'll have time to read the next one.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: G!  No bad language, scary situations, or questionable behavior.

This is the second book I've read off my TBR shelves for #TheUnreadShelfProject2022.


  1. It never even crossed my mind that they were keeping a secret they shouldn't. Did they do some things they shouldn't have? Yes. But that's how kids learn. I lived this one too. Of course. Can't wait for you to review the next one. My hard copy for book one just arrived today. Can't wait to read it to my boys.

    1. Jennifer, me either, because they weren't being naughty, to my mind. They were just trying to do something nice for someone, together.

      I keep telling my son he would like these, if only because he and Oliver have very similar taste in books :-) I may end up reading one aloud to my kids too, once we finish Kidnapped.


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