Book Review: When the World Turned Upside Down by K. Ibura
What do you do when the world shuts down? A heartwarming story of friendship and overcoming adversity in a time of COVID, When the World Turns Upside Down is about community, giving back, and understanding the world around us through the power of generosity from debut middle grade author K. Ibura.
Nobody expected a tiny little virus to change the whole world in such a big way, especially not Shayla, Liam, Ai, and Ben. But when school closes to keep everyone safe, their lives turn upside down. It is one thing to learn that the outside world isn’t safe, but why does it seem that the virus is causing trouble inside their homes too?
As they each struggle to adjust to life in quarantine, they discover they are not alone: their apartment building is full of people who need their help. Working together, they begin to see that there is power in numbers. When they cooperate, they can ease each other’s challenges and help their neighbors through tough times. It’s a lesson they’ll need when protests explode in the streets. Soon, each friend has to decide what it means to be part of a community—and how much they’re willing to do to make this world safer for everyone.
Set against the onset of COVID, When the World Turned Upside Down navigates issues of race and social justice in a heartwarming story of generosity, friendship, and the power of youth.
Some real talk: I wanted to read this book because of the cover. I wanted to read this book because of the plot, particularly the social justice element. But as I started to read it, sitting in an understaffed school full of people wearing masks, I thought... Wait, can I read about the pandemic and the switch the distance learning while still being in the pandemic and waiting to see if we will once again switch to distance learning? I will admit that I honestly grappled with if I could handle it while still reeling from all the stress and trauma. BUT. But. I started reading. I fell in love with the characters and the voice. And instead of my brain screaming, OH MY GOD, NOT THE PANDEMIC IN MY FICTIONAL ESCAPES TOO! I started to think, Look at these kids deal with lots of issues all at once, exacerbated by this endless pandemic, and look at them find each other, find community, and find ways to help and persevere. It’s a message I needed. And it’s an experience kids need to see too. They can see kids just like them go through what they have just gone through, and are going through, and almost have this somehow feel like historical fiction but we’re in the history right now. It’s a very specific moment and young readers are in it. The kids at my school absolutely love the I Survived series and I kept thinking of this like I Survived the Covid Pandemic, except with better writing (sorry, I Survived series!) and more heart.
The four children in the book all live in the same building and used to be inseparable. The Quartet, as they were called, have since drifted, for a variety of reasons. But now, at a time where their world has shrunk down to mostly just their building, they find each other again, and working together to help their neighbors, they find community and power in helping others. They also experience a range of things that will resonate with readers all the time, but were exacerbated by the pandemic and being stuck home with families. Shayla’s dad, a fashion designer, loses customers because of cancelled events. Liam lives with his stressed and overworked mother and also has panic attacks and lots of anxiety about change and uncertainty. Benjamin’s parents fight a lot and there’s really no escape with everyone working and learning from home. And Ai’s mom hasn’t left her bed in who knows how long, thanks to depression, and her doctor father is exhausted and hardly home. It’s hard. But as so much changes, as so much feels scary and stressful, they come together (often somewhat reluctantly and not without hurt feelings) to help their neighbors, to support each other, and, eventually, to think about and take action concerning racism and police brutality as they watch the country have a racial reckoning in the summer of 2020.
I don’t know if child readers will have the same impulse I had of “too soon!” when I first picked this book up. I kind of suspect they will love seeing something they too have gone through (and, sigh, are still going through) reflected in a novel. Hopefully the takeaway is that even in the most stressful and uncertain times, there is still so much good to be found through helping others, through connecting with friends, and learning and growing. A compelling story full of heart.
Review copy (ARC) courtesy of the publisher
Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
Publication date: 02/01/2022
Age Range: 8 – 12 Years
Filed under: Uncategorized
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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