The Great Upending

Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Bks. Mar. 2020. 272p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481491563.
Gr 5-8–Twelve-year-old Sara and her brother, Hawk, live on a farm in rural Pennsylvania that is experiencing a drought. In order to earn extra income, Sara’s parents renovate an old corn silo into a living space, and their first tenant arrives with an air of mystery. Sara and Hawk call him The Mister and watch his every move while helping their parents run the farm. They soon learn that The Mister is a world-famous author and illustrator of a best-selling children’s book series—who is fighting with his publishing company. As new fans of his work, Sara and Hawk are invested in advocating for him even if it means they are inviting a world of trouble. But Sara’s world is already full of trouble. Not only is her family worried about their farm, they are also terrified about her deteriorating health. She needs surgery on her heart, which has been weakened due to Marfan syndrome. The surgery is expensive, the doctors who are up to the task are out of state, and time is not on their side. With the uncertainty of Sara’s surgery hanging over their heads, the siblings journey to New York City to save the ending of The Mister’s book series, which may just end up saving Sara’s life too. With exquisite language, the author vividly conveys the beauty of a family farm full of life. Dialogue is spare, which fuels the narrative’s emotional arcs and imbues each character’s purpose with urgency.
VERDICT Readers will be drawn into the lush descriptions of setting and moved by the characters’ devotion to their passions whether they be land, art, or one another. Highly recommended purchase for school and public library collections of all sizes.

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