The Vanderbeekers on the Road by Karina Yan Glaser

The Vanderbeekrs, one of our favorite families, is on the road to discovery, opportunity, and possibly romance.

The Vanderbeekers on the Road by Karina Yan Glaser. Clarion (HarperCollins), 2022, 332 pages.

Reading Level: Middle Grades, ages 8-10

Recommended for: ages 8-12 (or 5-12 as a read-aloud)

See the USA!

New York City fades in the rear-view mirror as the Vanderbeekers head west with their third-floor neighbor Mr. Beiderman, his ward Orlando, and assorted pets. Ludwig, their borrowed van, is packed to the gills and has a long road ahead, from Harlem all the way to Whalers Cover on the cost of Monterrey, California. This was the road trip that Mr. Vanderbeeker’s father, the grandfather his kids never knew, planned to take with Papa after Papa’s graduation. But it didn’t happen, and now the family is heading west on a surprise pilgrimage for Papa’s 40th birthday. He’s still in Indiana, helping a friend in need, and doesn’t know they’re coming.

Jessie and Orlando have a surprise of their own. Their science project came to the attention of the director of a special summer program at Berkeley, and they’ve just been invited to an interview. What timing! And what possibilities: participating in the program could pave their way to a scholarship at one of the country’s premier universities. They decide to keep it to themselves for now, but Laney, the youngest Vanderbeeker, gets wind of the prospect and is horrified. Jessie can’t be moving all the way to California for college! She’s only 15! And Orlando is like one of the family, too. One way or another, Laney must foil the interview.

Hijinks Ensue

Anyone familiar with the Vanderbeekers will be totally on board for this latest adventure. (Those who haven’t met the family yet start with Volume One for the most enjoyable experience.) The story has a lot of ground to cover, both geographically and narratively, and as such feels rushed at times. At the Grand Canyon, for example, the family “spent a day walking through the park.” You don’t “walk through” a park that comprises 1.27 million acres, and refrain from comment about its grandeur. Still, the humor and warmth of the series shines in this sixth installment as much as all the others. (Who can identify with the wretched overnight experience at Shady Acres Campground?) There’s one more adventure to come before we say goodbye (will Mr. Beiderman find love?), so buckle your seatbelts and enjoy the ride.

Overall Rating: 4.25

  • Worldview/moral value: 4.5
  • Artistic/literary value: 4

Read more about our ratings here.                 

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Janie is the VERY senior staff writer for Redeemed Reader, as well as a long-time contributor to WORLD Magazine and an author of nine books for children. The rest of the time she's long-distance smooching on her four grandchildren (not an easy task). She lives with her equally senior husband of almost-fifty years in the Ozarks of Missouri.

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