The Day the World Stopped Turning

Feiwel & Friends. Jul. 2019. 288p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781250107077.
Gr 5-8–This story within a story begins in the 1980s with 18-year-old Englishman, Vincent, taking a wandering journey through France. He falls ill in the marshlands of Camargue and is rescued Lorenzo, a man with autism, who is out searching for lost or injured flamingos. Lorenzo takes Vincent back to his farmhouse where he and his friend, Kezia, nurse him slowly back to health. As he recovers, Kezia tells him the tale of how she and Lorenzo came to live alone on the farm. It is a tale that goes back to the early 1940s, when they were both children and Germany had invaded France. Kezia was a lonely girl, bullied and ostracized for her Roma heritage even as the other children enjoyed her family’s magnificent carousel on the town square. Lorenzo is looked down on by many in the town for his autism which is characterized by echolalia (repeating words or phrases), difficulty regulating emotions, and fixation on animals–flamingos in particular. The friendship that develops between the two as children is beautifully innocent and genuine. Their story is one of wartime and loss, but also of compassion and hope. However, the device of looking back a bit at a time as present-day Kezia (an adult) tells the tale to Vincent (another adult) pulls readers from a moving tale and keeps them from being fully immersed. As a result, it takes much longer to become invested in the children’s story.
VERDICT A beautiful but slow-moving novel that will appeal most to patient, mature readers of historical fiction

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