Author Interview & Review: The Scoop on Karina Yan Glaser

by Veronica Vivona
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Karina Yan Glaser’s debut novel, The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street, was released just last fall and has become an instant hit! Now, the next novel in her series, The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden, will be released later this fall on September 25th. Plenty of young readers are looking forward to the novel’s release. Luckily, we were able to get our hands on an advance copy of it, so we can share our thoughts on it with you! Check out our review of it here:

Review of The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden by Karina Yan Glaser

We all fell in love with the Vanderbeerker children in the book, The Vanderbeerkers of 141st Street, written by Karina Yan Glaser. While the first novel focused on the Vanderbeeker children trying to save their home, the second novel, The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden, focuses on the siblings creating a community garden to surprise a sick neighbor. But after multiple issues arise, the concept of creating a garden starts feeling a bit out of reach.

The best part of both of Karina Yan Glaser’s novels is the fact that readers follow all five kids in the Vanderbeeker household, even though they’re of different ages. Each sibling has a different personality and their own unique voice. However, when there’s a mission involved (like saving their home or creating a community garden in a somewhat abandoned patch of land), they all come together and unite as a family.

There are many parts to this follow-up novel that I found to be incredibly spectacular! The first is how compatible this novel is with the one that came before it. The second novel begins the summer after the first one and for anyone who fell in love with the first book, the follow-up will make you feel as though you never left the Vanderbeekers’ loving home at all.

Another aspect that makes this novel great is how it reflects life. There can be moments of happiness during sad times and moments of sadness during happy times. This novel shows how the lives of kids can be more complex than adults seem to sometimes recognize. And while five siblings might have been raised by the same adults, each one is able to have their own moments of joy and sadness, with each kid processing everything differently than the next.

I personally fell in love with the first novel, and The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden brought me just as much joy. Reading about these kids who are each going on their own journey, but also have one larger goal in mind, made this a novel that I couldn’t put down.

Karina Yan Glaser’s second novel, The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden, is a novel filled with beautifully written characters, heart-wrenching moments, and a conscious understanding of showing readers the importance of empathy. This novel has anything you would ever want from a middle-grade novel and for that, I would recommend it to anyone in a heartbeat.

Q&A with Karina Yan Glaser

After reading The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden, we were able to talk to author Karina Yan Glaser herself! We learned about her rescue animals, what she was up to before she became an author, and her passion for writing for middle schoolers. Check it out here:

Just to start, can you tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?

I am a full-time writer, illustrator, and mom living in New York City with my family and three rescue animals. I write and illustrate children’s books for readers ages seven through eleven and I am also a contributing editor at a book media company called Book Riot where I write about children’s books, new releases, and reading resources.

What were you up to before you became an author?

Before I became an author, I worked in the non-profit and education fields. Most of my time was spent working in family homeless services where I taught literacy in the shelter’s after-school children’s program. I have also worked with an international non-profit organization that assisted under-resourced countries establish healthcare systems that treated patients with HIV/AIDS.

What inspired you to be a writer?

I have always written, ever since I was a little kid just learning how to form letters. Books – particularly children’s books – have always been a passion of mine, and when I had young kids of my own, a family member encouraged me to write a children’s book… and I took up the challenge!

Your first book, The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street, follows a family as they try and save themselves from eviction. Can you tell us a bit about that book and how you were inspired to write it?

The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street is about a family of five kids living in a brownstone in Harlem, New York City, who find out five days before Christmas that their landlord (who happens to be their upstairs neighbor) is not renewing their lease. They have to leave by the end of the year, and the kids decide right away that they need to do everything they can to convince their curmudgeonly landlord to renew their lease.

I knew right away that I wanted to write a book about a big family living in New York City. Growing up, I loved books like All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor and The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright, books that captured big family life in New York City. I see The Vanderbeekers as a modern take on those wonderful classics.

Your first novel has now evolved into a series with The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden coming out later this fall. What is the second novel about and how will it relate to your first?

The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden is set in the summer, six months after the first book. The story begins when the Vanderbeeker’s beloved neighbor gets hospitalized. To keep from being consumed by worry, the Vanderbeeker kids plan the best welcome home gift for their plant loving neighbors: they will convert the eyesore of 141st Street—a small piece of land that has been abandoned for decades—into a community garden. But creating a garden from scratch is not as easy as it seems, especially when there’s a giant “NO TRESPASSING” sign, trash and weeds galore, and a sneaky real estate agent trying to thwart their plans.

You have a full family that includes not only kids, but an assortment of rescue animals! Has your family inspired your novels at all?

My family have definitely inspired aspects of my stories. My two daughters are eight and ten, and their antics and adventures help keep me plugged into the joys and trials of that age group. My animals also inspire me! I have a dog, a cat, and a rabbit, just like the Vanderbeeker family.

You also write for Book Riot! How did you get your start there and what is it like being a contributing editor for them?

I started writing for Book Riot right after I finished the first draft of The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street. I thought working there might be a fun way to talk about my love for books and in particular, middle grade novels. In the last year, I have been writing a weekly kid’s lit newsletter for Book Riot, which is great fun!

Can you tell us a bit about your writing process? How do you like to create?

My writing process changes all of the time. For my first book, I wrote the whole thing in twenty-eight days and then spent a year and a half revising it. For my current book, the third in the Vanderbeekers series, I wrote about 27,000 words, deleted them all, and started from scratch. I am never quite sure how to describe my writing process as I seem to reinvent it each time I write a book!

Is there a fun fact about yourself that might surprise our readers if you were to share it with them?

I used to be a competitive gymnast growing up. I also used to belong to a hip-hop dance company right out of college!

Who inspires you the most to write?

That’s easy – other authors and writers inspire me the most. There are writers out there, people like Jacqueline Woodson, Linda Sue Park, and Renee Watson, that just take my breath away with their beautiful language and creativity.

What do you want kids to gain the most from your novels?

That’s a hard question to answer – each reader will (hopefully!) get something different out of my books. Sometimes I’m surprised by how kids respond to my books and what they like about them. I think one theme that trails through each of my books is the power of empathy. Books have a singular and powerful way of teaching empathy.

What advice would you give to struggling writers out there who are trying to accomplish their dreams?

Keep writing and never give up!

Where do you see yourself going from here?

I absolutely love what I do and hope to continue writing for kids for many decades to come. I would love to expand into picture books as well to improve my illustration skills.

Do you have any final words of wisdom that you would like to share with our readers?

Read books, share books, be happy!

The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden will be released to the general public on September 25th, 2018. 

To learn more about Karina Yan Glaser, check out her website and follow her on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

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