The Great Upending
Twelve-year-old Sara, the main character and narrator of Beth Kephart’s delightful new novel, The Great Upending, is suffering from Marfan syndrome, a connective tissue disorder that has left her with unusually long legs, flat feet, and a dangerously enlarged heart. Sara and her 11-year-old brother, Hawk, live on a farm in rural Pennsylvania with their father and mother and a friendly assortment of hogs, goats, cats, and birds. As the novel begins, Sara’s parents, who don’t have near enough money to cover the cost of the surgery that Sara desperately needs to repair her damaged heart, have rented out the silo adjacent to the farm to a mysterious silver-haired stranger who spends all of his time alone. Overcome with curiosity, Sara and Hawk discover that their privacy-loving tenant is actually a famous author and illustrator of children’s books who has hidden himself away on the farm to complete the final volume of his bestselling Red Shoe trilogy. As the story unfolds, Sara and Hawk discover that they themselves are the subjects of the author’s story and that the author has a far deeper and more personal connection to their family and the farm on which they live than they had ever dreamed. In the story’s final scene, the novelist suddenly finds the inspiration to complete his story on his own terms, without the intrusion of his sales-conscious publishers and editors in New York City, and Sara and her family learn that she will receive the medical treatment that she needs. From the frequent allusions to Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, which is Hawk’s favorite book, to Sara’s fascination with the fictitious Red Shoe books that she and Hawk check out of the local library, The Great Upending is a moving celebration of the power of reading to awaken children’s imaginations and sense of wonder.
David Shirley ©2020 Parents’ Choice
David Shirley’s recent nonfiction titles include A History of Brooklyn Bridge Park and Fix It Leroy! His YA biographies, Every Day I Sing the Blues: The Story of B. B. King and Satchel Paige: Baseball Legend were honored as the New York Public Library’s Best Books for Teens.