Wednesday, February 09, 2022

When the World Turned Upside Down

Ibura, K. When the World Turned Upside Down
February 1st 2022 by Scholastic Press
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

It's March 2020, and Shayla, who is Black, is conflicted about her school being shut down. It means that she doesn't have to deal with Ai, her sort of best friend, but it means that she has to be at home with her father, who is struggling since his job as a fashion designer slows down considerably. Ai lives in her apartment building, and has struggles of her own. Her mother has taken to her bed, and Ai is left to cook for her family, since her older sister Kartika is trying to study for senior year exams. Ben and Liam also live in the building, and the four have been friends ever since Liam's mother used to babysit them all. Liam suffers frequent panic attacks, so the virus has him very distracted, but he tries to cope so that he can deal with his young sisters. The Quartet realize that they have to stick together, since they don't see anyone else from school. They do online lessons, but are soon trying to find ways to occupy their time.  When a neighbor gets sick, they bring food for her dog, and let parents know so that the woman can get help. She has COVID, and the parents are angry at the children for exposing themselves to the virus, but no one gets sick. They do take care of the woman's dog. They also help the building superintendent wipe down surfaces, and run errands for elderly neighbors who might not be able to get out as easily. Shayla's father provides them with masks, and they try to maintain social distance and practice good hygiene; the only other person to get COVID is Ai's sister, who is okay. As 2020 progresses, they also have to process their feelings about the George Floyd murder and the Black Lives Matters Protests, which occur close to home. The children have to decide how involved they can be while still remaining safe, and how they should continue to try to make the world a better place. 
Strengths: I liked the inclusion of Shayla and Ai's friendship problems, which were treated in a very realistic way. If you have other options for friends, you can let some go, but when you're locked down, even friends you're a little tired of can look good. There are a variety of experiences, and parents with different situations. There was even a pandemic puppy, which was good to see! There were some good details about masking, social distancing, and other things that SOMEDAY will need to be explained to readers who have no memory of them. This is a good purchase for elementary libraries so that students who will be in, say, fourth grade, will be able to see what the world was like when they were just starting school. 
Weaknesses: This comes to a somewhat abrupt end. It might have been interesting to take this a bit further, with the children going back to in person learning, but the author's time line of how the book was written shows that this wasn't really possible, given the way publishing works. Like Walter's Don't Stand So Close To Me, it had to end when it had to end!
What I really think: This certainly showed a different experience of the pandemic than I had-- the children didn't seem to do much with school, and I was so nervous about not being in person that I was hyper aware of constantly checking in and being available. They also saw a LOT of people. It's good to see different experiences, but I had trouble getting my mind around it. The children all seemed a bit young. I'm debating. On the one hand, it's a great historical novel, but on the other hand, the last thing my students want to read about right now is lockdown! 

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