A New York Times bestseller! 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.
About the Author
Karina Yan Glaser lives in Harlem, New York City, with her husband, two daughters, and assortment of rescued animals. One of her proudest achievements is raising two kids who can't go anywhere without a book. Visit her online at www.karinaglaser.com.
Read an Excerpt
“This is the most boring summer in the whole history of the world,” nine-year-old Oliver Vanderbeeker announced. He was wearing basketball shorts and a faded blue T-shirt, and his hair was sticking out in every direction. “It’s only the first week of summer vacation,” Miss Josie, the Vanderbeekers’ second-floor neighbor, pointed out. The Vanderbeekers, who lived on the ground floor and first floor of a brownstone in Harlem, spent a lot of time on the second floor when their mother was busy baking for her clients. Miss Josie had her hair in curlers and was watering her many trays of seedlings, which covered the dining room table. When she was finished, she stepped over to a window box, clipped a few small purple flowers, and put them in a bud vase before handing it to Laney. “Bring these to Mr. Jeet, won’t you, dear?” Laney, five and a quarter years old and the youngest of Oliver’s four sisters, stopped tying ribbons around the ears of her rabbit, Paganini, and stood up. She wore a silver skirt made of sparkly tulle, a purple T-shirt, and sparkly red shoes. The shoes were slippery on the bottom, so she shuffled slowly over to Mr. Jeet, careful not to spill the water in the vase. Paganini hopped close by her heels, shaking his head, causing his ears to flip around and the ribbons to launch in different directions. “How are you bored already?” Mr. Beiderman asked. Mr. Beiderman was their third-floor neighbor and landlord, and up until half a year ago, he hadn’t left his apartment in six years. He had almost refused to renew their lease back in December. But the Vanderbeeker kids had managed to convince him to let them stay, and now they were working on getting him outside the brownstone. He visited the Vanderbeekers as well as Miss Josie and her husband, Mr. Jeet, almost daily, but he had never left the building once in all that time. Oliver slumped into a sunshine-yellow vinyl chair at the kitchen table, his elbows on the metal tabletop, his hands propping up his head. “There’s nothing to do. Nothing I can do, anyways.” Oliver watched Miss Josie pull a shoebox down from a high cupboard and lift the top off. Inside were a dozen pill bottles. One by one, she opened bottles and shook pills into a cup. “And what do you want to do?” she asked. “Text my friends,” Oliver said immediately. “Watch basketball videos on YouTube. Play Minecraft.” Mr. Beiderman flattened his mouth into a straight line. “Kids today,” he muttered, then went back to reading out loud to Mr. Jeet. The book was about the history of roses in England. Oliver noticed that Mr. Jeet’s eyes fluttered closed, probably because he was bored to death. Jessie Vanderbeeker, who was a few months away from turning thirteen, was sitting on Miss Josie’s fire escape, reading a biography about the famous physicist Chien-Shiung Wu. She leaned her head through the kitchen window between a curtain of ivy tendrils trailing down from Mr. Beiderman’s planters above. Her frizzy hair caught onto some of the ivy, making her look electrocuted. “Oliver, seriously,” Jessie said. “You’re worse than Herman Huxley.” “Herman Huxley!” Oliver spluttered. Being compared to Herman Huxley was like being compared to gum on the bottom of your shoe or jellyfish in a lake on a beautiful summer day when all you wanted to do was cannonball off the dock into the water. Herman Huxley complained about everything, including cold weather, hot weather, and his brand-new Nikes, which any other kid would sell their most prized possessions for. “Yup,” Jessie said, whipping out her new-as-of-last-week phone and punching it with her thumbs. Oliver felt a wave of pure green jealousy wash over him as Jessie flaunted her phone. Jessie continued talking, her eyes never leaving the screen. “You know Mama and Papa got this for me so I can keep in touch with Isa.” She disappeared back behind the curtain of ivy. Oliver glared in her direction. It wasn’t fair. Isa, yet another sister and Jessie’s twin, had been chosen for some special three-week-long orchestra camp four hours away by car, but that didn’t mean she and Jessie should have whatever they wanted. Hyacinth, age seven and the sister who annoyed Oliver the least, spoke up from her perch on the armrest of Mr. Jeet’s chair, where she was working on a new type of knitting using only her fingers—no needles. By wrapping yarn around her fingers and doing some complicated looping, she created a rope of yarn that fell to the ground. “Tell Isa I love her and miss her a million, trillion times. And then put that unicorn emoji at the end, and lots of those pink hearts.” Next to her was Franz, her basset hound, who sneezed three times, then nudged Hyacinth’s foot with his nose. “Ha!” said Oliver triumphantly. “She can’t even do emojis on that stupid flip phone.” “Language,” reminded Miss Josie. She handed Oliver the cup of pills—there were, like, a hundred pills in there!—and a glass of water. “Bring these to Mr. Jeet, will you, dear?” Oliver unglued himself from his chair and walked to Mr. Jeet. Mr. Jeet wore his customary crisp button-down shirt, a lavender bow tie, and ironed gray slacks. Oliver did not understand why Mr. Jeet voluntarily dressed up every day. He was a jeans-and-T-shirt guy himself; the dirtier the clothes, the better the mojo. After he put the pills on the little table by Mr. Jeet’s seat, next to a framed photo of the Jeets’ twelve-year-old grandnephew Orlando posing with a science-fair trophy, he dragged himself back to his chair and slumped into it. “Why don’t you play basketball?” Miss Josie suggested. “No one’s around,” he mumbled. “Everyone’s at camp. Basketball camp.” “Angie isn’t at basketball camp,” Miss Josie said, referring to his next-door neighbor and friend, who was also the best basketball player in their elementary school. “She’s going to summer school in the mornings. Something about an advanced math extra-credit course.” Oliver shuddered. “I’m sure your mom would love it if you cleaned your room,” Miss Josie suggested. “I cleaned it last month,” Oliver said. “You could read.” “Uncle Arthur forgot to bring books the last time he came to visit.” Miss Josie tsked sympathetically. She knew how much Oliver depended on his monthly book delivery from his uncle, who provided him with every story a kid could wish for. Mr. Beiderman got up from his chair. “I’ve got to check on Princess Cutie. Sometimes she scales the curtains and can’t get down.” Princess Cutie was Mr. Beiderman’s cat, which Hyacinth had given him and Laney had named. Mr. Beiderman walked to the door. “I can teach you how to knit,” Hyacinth offered her brother, holding her knitted rope in the air. “If I ever take up knitting, feel free to stab me in the heart,” Oliver replied. “You can push me and Paganini on the tire swing,” Laney suggested, her eyes brightening. Oliver yawned. “It’s too hot.” “Isa would do it,” Laney grumbled. Miss Josie tapped her chin with a finger. “Ooh, I know!” “You’re not going to talk about us making that disgusting piece of land next to the church into a garden again, are you?” Oliver said at the same time Miss Josie exclaimed, “You can make that unused land next to the church into a garden!” Miss Josie’s recommendation was met with collective boos. “That place is haunted,” Laney said. “Isa said so.” Hyacinth nodded. “I don’t like walking past it. Isa said the vines that wrap around the gate reach out and grab people when they walk by.” “It’s not haunted!” Jessie called out. “It has never been scientifically proven that ghosts actually exist.” “How do you know?” Oliver countered. “Have you studied them?” “Think how nice it would be to have a place to rest in the middle of a hot day,” Miss Josie continued. “People could get into the dirt and even plant vegetables! I’m sure Triple J would approve.” Triple J was the church’s pastor. “Do you miss working at the botanical garden, Miss Josie?” Jessie asked, pushing aside the ivy so she could look inside. Miss Josie had been an educator at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx. “I do miss it,” Miss Josie replied. “I worked there for forty-five years. That’s how I met Mr. Jeet. He was a groundskeeper, and he seemed to show up wherever I was. The rest is history.” She smiled in Mr. Jeet’s direction. Mr. Jeet was letting Hyacinth give him one pill at a time; he was slowly swallowing them with water and grimacing after each one. He sure had to take a lot of pills. “If you had a garden, you could plant delicious things for Paganini to eat,” Miss Josie suggested to Laney. “Ooh, he would love that!” Laney replied. Paganini’s ears twitched at the sound of his name; then he jumped into a ceramic pot that held a ficus tree. Miss Josie gently lifted him out before he kicked dirt all over the floor, then set him on Mr. Jeet’s lap. Mr. Jeet used his right hand (his left hand still had limited mobility after his stroke two years ago) to play with Paganini’s ears. His words came out slowly. “You’re—lucky—you’re—cute.” He leaned down while Paganini sat up, and they did a nose bump. Oliver rested his head on the cool metal table. It felt good against his cheek. “A garden sounds like a lot of work.” “Herman Huxley,” Jessie sang from the window. “You are so like him.” Oliver was tired of his sister and her stupid comments and her stupid phone. “Stop saying that! You don’t know anything!” “Don’t be mean to me because you’re jealous of my phone,” Jessie shot back, climbing through the window. “Okay, kids,” Miss Josie interjected. “Why don’t I put out some tea and cookies—” But Oliver didn’t want tea and cookies. He wanted the last word. “Why do you need a phone, anyways? It’s not like you got into science camp and need to stay in contact with Mama and Papa. Isa is probably off having a great time without you, while you’re stuck here all summer doing nothing.” “Oliver!” Mr. Jeet called out. Paganini leaped off his lap and onto the carpet, then scurried under an armchair. Mr. Jeet tried to get out of his chair, his face ashen and his arms shaking as he braced himself on the armrests. “Please—Oliver—no—fight—” But before he could finish his sentence, his knees buckled and he fell into Hyacinth. “Miss Josie, help!” cried Hyacinth, struggling to support Mr. Jeet’s weight. “Jeet!” cried Miss Josie, running toward him. Mr. Beiderman burst through the door just as Mr. Jeet crumpled to the floor. Hyacinth knocked the medicine cup over as she fell into the side table. The pills fell to the floor and scattered in every direction.