Musical Selections from The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street
Discussion and Activity Guides
HMH Books for Young Readers created an activity guide for their Fall 2017 middle grade releases, which includes an activity page for The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street. Download it here.
Interviews and Blog Posts
The Horn Book's Publisher's Previews (link)
The TeachingBooks.net Blog, Guest Post (link)
Literary Rambles (guest post by Karina and her agent Ginger Clark) (link)
Kick-Butt Kid Lit Interview (link)
Beth McMullen's Blog (link)
Teachers Who Read Blog (link)
Blackplume's "Celebrating Debutantes" Blog (link)
If you would like to know how to pronounce Karina's name, take a listen to the audio clip below.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers did an Instagram Stories session with Karina right before the book released. They talk about the book, Harlem, and Alexander Hamilton!
Frequently Asked Questions (taken directly from reader maiL)
Is it hard to come up with creative ideas?
Sometimes it is very hard to come up with creative ideas, but I try to take time out of every day to let my brain wander and be imaginative. This creative time for me usually happens when I am walking my dog.
Will there be a series?
Yes, the Vanderbeekers will be a series. The second book, The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden, comes out on September 25, 2018, and the third book will be released in the fall of 2019.
How did you come up with the story and characters?
The idea for The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street came a few days before National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) back in 2013. I was just starting to think about writing a middle grade book, and I thought I would try NaNoWriMo, a program that happens every November that challenges writers to complete a novel in thirty days. A few days before November 1st, I woke up in the middle of the night with the idea for the first line of the book and frantically wrote it down in a notebook next to my bed. The line was this: "Among the many people who had visited the Vanderbeekers, there was quite a bit of debate about what it was like, but general agreement about what it was NOT: calm, today, boring, predictable." It was this line that guided my writing about this family, and despite extensive revision that line stayed in the story through many, many, many drafts (although it ultimately ended up being moved to the second chapter).
Which character/pet is your favorite?
I couldn’t choose one! I love them all!
What other books have you written?
The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street is my first published book, but the first unpublished book I wrote was called Pam and John Want a Pet. I wrote it in second grade (and it might have been based on a true story).
How long did it take the write The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street?
I wrote the first draft in twenty-eight days, but I spent two years revising it and getting an agent to represent my work. After my agent sold the book to a publishing house, I did another year’s worth of revisions.
How long did it take to draw the pictures?
Is 141st Street real?
Yes, it is a real street in Harlem.
How did you come up with the character’s names?
Some of the characters were named after friends or family (my godson’s name is Oliver, one of my best friend’s names is Harrigan), and others were pulled from my imagination or a baby book.
How did you come up with the pet’s names?
I don’t remember where I got the name Franz, but I named the cat George Washington after America’s first President and I named the rabbit Paganini after a famous violinist.
What part of the story did you like the most?
For The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street, I think my favorite part was the climax of the story.
Can you make a movie of The Vanderbeekers?
That is not up to me, but maybe one day someone will want to make a movie out of the book!
How many books will be in the Vanderbeeker series?
Currently there are three books scheduled for the Vanderbeekers series.
Did you write with a pencil or a typewriter?
I wrote with a pen and paper, and I also typed on the computer.
Was it hard drawing the pictures?
I had a great time drawing the pictures! It was hard sometimes, but I enjoyed it and found it a nice break from writing.
What was the best part of writing The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street?
I loved revising and polishing, inserting wording or paragraphs that pulled me more and more into the story. For me, writing a novel is like putting together a puzzle. It doesn’t all come together at the first go; the full picture gradually reveals itself with time, patience, and diligence.
Do you play the violin?
No, but my daughters both play the violin.
Is it a true story?
Nope, it is fictional. It came from my imagination!
Did you have an assistant to help you?
Yes, my assistants (pictured at left) were a great deal of help.
Are your kids named Isa, Jessie, Oliver, Hyacinth, and Laney?
Nope! I have two daughters, and their names are Kaela and Lina.
How did you become a writer?
I became a writer by writing (so you are all writers, too!), but I became a published author when a publishing house wanted to buy my book.
How did you come up with the title?
I had lots of different titles when I wrote The Vanderbeekers, but I liked this title because it had the family last name in it plus the street they lived on – both very important parts of the book.