When the World Turned Upside Down by K. Ibura

Published by Scholastic

Summary:  Ai, Ben, Liam, and Shayla have grown up together in the same apartment building, but lately things have been changing.  Shayla has been moving away from the group, and Liam is dealing with panic attacks.  The story opens on the day school closes down due to Covid-19.  During the next few weeks, everyone is struggling to get through this abrupt change, which has exacerbated family issues for all four of the kids.  A well-intentioned but ill-advised mission to help a sick neighbor lands three of the kids in quarantine, where they use their time to come up with better ways to help others in the apartment building.  As the spring wears on, news of George Floyd’s murder reaches the children, and they become aware of protests in their neighborhood.  While they’re not allowed to join the protests, they find other ways to raise awareness about racism.  There are no easy answers as the story ends with the pandemic still in its early days, but the four children have learned how to be more active participants in their own lives, helping themselves, their families, their neighbors, and possibly the greater world around them.  288 pages; grades 4-7.

Pros:  I was drawn into this story right away, with its four interesting characters and the ways they dealt with the events that we all lived through.  While I do find that some of my students are not interested at all in reliving the early days of the pandemic, those who are will find the people and events of this story very relatable.

Cons:  I know schools closed abruptly, but the teacher in this story announces that school is closing down for two weeks about a minute before dismissal, with no time for discussion, just a hurried handout to take home to parents. 

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