When Impossible Happens

Putnam. Apr. 2023. 176p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780593530122.
Gr 3-5–An Indian child seeks truth during the chaos of lockdown and loss. Swara narrates the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic from her home city of Bengaluru, India. During the confusion and fear of those first weeks, she suffers a deeply personal loss. To cope, Swara rebrands life challenges into a series of mysteries to be solved, leading to the possibility of solving an actual crime in her very own neighborhood. Swara is an engaging narrator in a cast of distinctive characters that bring Swara’s neighborhood to life, even amid a global pandemic. The characters’ authenticity shines during scenes of online school with a compassionate teacher hearing the very real concerns of children living through COVID-19. Humor keeps readers engaged through clever wordplay: Swara’s mystery-loving grandmother calls Swara “Little Miss Marble,” while her best friend Ruth, who crowns herself the neighborhood reporter, calls her broadcast, “The Ruth of the Matter.” However, the overall arc of the story gets weighed down by multiple dynamic story lines: the loss of a beloved family member; the terror of an unknown virus and the resulting unprecedented lockdown; a new puppy; and the strange happenings at night in the empty shop across the street. The result tangles readers in a web of problems that feels overwhelming, even with resolution.
VERDICT A welcome perspective on life, loss, and current events that will engage readers in the beginning but might lose their interest by the end.

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