Skip to Main Content

Book Club Kits: The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street

Alamance County Public Libraries offer Book Club Kits for check out to area book clubs. Each kit contains 10 copies of a book and a reading guide.

Cover Image


Check Availability

To request this kit, click link above.

Alamance County Public Libraries

Alamance County Public Libraries provide free and open access to lifelong learning, resources for everyday living, and reading for pleasure in a welcoming environment.  Our collections, services and programs enhance the quality of life for individuals, families, and communities. Contact the Library webmaster.

Alamance County Public Libraries operates as a Department of Alamance County Government.  Visit the Alamance County Website at

Book Summary

The Vanderbeekers have always lived in the brownstone on 141st Street. It's practically another member of the family. So when their reclusive, curmudgeonly landlord decides not to renew their lease, the five siblings have eleven days to do whatever it takes to stay in their beloved home and convince the dreaded Beiderman just how wonderful they are. And all is fair in love and war when it comes to keeping their home. A modern classic in the making reminiscent of the Penderwicks series, The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street is about the connections we make and the unexpected turns life can take.

Discussion Questions

Told they will have to move out of their Harlem brownstone just after Christmas, the five Vanderbeeker children, ages four to twelve, decide to change their reclusive landlord’s mind. The children initiate Operation Beiderman and plan a variety of kind things to do for their landlord, but one by one all of their best ideas fail. Will the Vanderbeekers be able to remain in their beloved home?

Pre-reading Activity

The Vanderbeeker children work together well and show respect and love to one another. Ask students to write a paragraph describing their relationships with their siblings or friends. Students should give an example of an interaction with one of them to illustrate their description of how they get along. Students can then share their paragraphs with the class.

Discussion Questions

General Questions

  1. How does Oliver change from wanting to write “bathroom words” on the Biederman’s door to actively serving him?
  2. How does the structure of the 4 days leading up to Christmas help serve the narrative of the story?
  3. Would it have been more effective if it had taken place over a longer period of time? Is the brownstone a magical house, somehow alive? What are the evidences in the book that make it seem so?


1. What is Operation Beiderman? How do the Vanderbeeker children execute their plans?

2. What do the children learn about Mr. Beiderman from Mr. Jones? How does Angie help them discover additional information about Mr. Beiderman and his family?3. Why does Jessie create the water wall? How does Isa react when she sees and hears the water wall?

4. How does Hyacinth attempt to prove her bravery? Why is she eventually successful?

5. What is the REP? Why do the children like to spend time there?

6. How do Miss Josie and Mr. Jeet feel about the Vanderbeekers moving out of the rownstone? How do the other neighbors respond?

7. Why doesn’t Jessie want Isa to go to the eighth grade dance? What does Jessie tell Benny to discourage him from asking Isa?

8. Why does Hyacinth want to give Mr. Beiderman a kitten? Why does she think it will help him? What is Mr. Beiderman’s initial reaction to the kitten?

9. What is Isa’s reaction when she discovers what Jessie said to Benny about taking Isa to the dance? How does Jessie feel when Isa confronts her about what she said to Benny? How does Jessie fix the mess she made?

10. Why does Mr. Beiderman eventually change his mind about the Vanderbeekers moving out of the brownstone? Who benefits the most from Mr. Beiderman’s change of heart?





All of the Vanderbeeker siblings are delightful, but which one is most like you?

1.) Your friend is having a terrible day. How would you cheer her up?

a.) By playing her favorite song for her.

b.) By creating a Rube-Goldberg-type machine that would light up with a smiley face.

c.) By writing her a haiku and challenging her to a game of pick-up basketball.

d.) By making her something crafty.

e.) By giving her lots of enormous hugs!


2.) Uh oh. You’ve done something that frustrated someone you care about. What did you do to push his buttons?

a.) You were working so hard on your favorite creative pursuit that you weren’t around to hang out when he came by to see you.

b.) You thought you knew what he would want in a certain situation, so you made a decision for him instead of letting him speak for himself.

c.) You lost your temper just a little bit and wrote him an angry note.

d.) You couldn’t quite summon up all your bravery and were too nervous to do something he wanted you to do.

e.) You got a little too exuberant and knocked him over with an extra-giant hug.


3.) It’s your birthday! What gift is at the top of your wish list?

a.) Tickets to a musical performance.

b.) An amazing chemistry set.

c.) New basketball sneakers and the new book by your favorite author.

d.) Arts and craft supplies and a recipe book.

e.) Fun clothes for dressing up.


4.) You’re working with a few other people on a group project. What role will you take on?

a.) You’ll be the leader who gets everyone organized.

b.) You’ll do all the detail-oriented sketches and calculations.

c.) You’ll be in charge of the written part.

d.) You’ll be in charge of the artistic stuff. Posters and other visuals have your name all over them.

e.) You’ll be the one to encourage everybody and to keep a positive attitude even when things are hard.


5.) What would other people say is your best trait?

a.) You’re a compassionate friend and you forgive people when they make mistakes.

b.) You’re extremely loyal, and you always stick up for the people you care about.

c.) You’re not too proud to learn from your mistakes, apologize for them, and make things right.

d.) You are always kind to everyone, people and animals alike, and you can be brave even when frightened.

e.) You make people laugh, and your enthusiasm and affection bring joy to others.


If you answered mostly A, you’re an Isa! Musical, organized, responsible, and kind.

If you answered mostly B, you’re a Jessie!  Passionate, scientific, and fiercely loyal.

If you answered mostly C, you’re an Oliver! You love sports, books, and poetry, and you truly want to do what’s right.

If you answered mostly D, you’re a Hyacinth! Brave when you need to be and kind to all.

If you answered mostly E, you’re a Laney! Funny, loving, and brimming with contagious joy.