The Great Upending by Beth Kephart

Hello, Beth Kephart! Thank you for visiting Watch. Connect. Read. to share The Great Upending’s intriguing and eye-catching cover. Please tell us about the scene Levente Szabó featured on The Great Upending’s cover.

Beth Kephart: Thank you, Mr. Schu!

Meet Sara and her brother, Hawk, who have stolen away to their favorite tree high above the family farm. Far off in the distance is the renovated silo where an old man is taking refuge—but from what? The pages of art descending like leaves just might offer a clue, but there’s no time to lose. This mystery is unfolding fast.



Scenario: You are walking across the University of Pennsylvania’s campus when one of your former students waves and says hello. He notices you’re holding an ARC of The Great Upending. He asks you what it is about. You need to be somewhere in one minute, but you’re able to spend approximately 25 seconds telling him about it. Ready, set, go!

Beth Kephart: Oh my. My heart is pounding at the prospect. This being me, I’d turn the question around, to find out how my (beloved, they are almost always beloved) student has been. But let’s pretend: “David Marchino,” I’d say. “I can’t believe you asked, for your spirit is tucked firmly inside this book, in the character of the soul-wide kid-with-his-nose-in-a book Hawk. Hawk’s sister is in desperate need of life-saving surgery. The family is crushed by debt on their drought-afflicted farm. When an old man shows up with big troubles of his own, everything these kids thought they were fighting for shifts. Another way to put this: This novel is about caring for people for whom the health care system cannot care, on the one hand. It’s about honoring the imagination, on the other. I’ll send you a copy as soon as I have one, David.”

(Good thing I talk fast.)




Please finish these sentence starters:


Sara and Hawk sit up in a tree and out on the roof of their house, spying on the old man who has moved into the renovated silo. Sometimes he rides a unicycle in a circle around the top floor. Sometimes he refuses to answer the door when a strange woman from Manhattan knocks. Sara can only just get a blurry view of this, unless she is borrowing Hawk’s spyglass. 

I hope The Great Upending reinforces a message about the value of all lives, no matter who can afford care or not, while leaving readers thinking about the ways in which we must defend our own imaginations.

School librarians are celebrated in The Great Upending. Or, I should say, all librarians are, for when Sara and Hawk go to the little community library to find out more about The Mister, Mrs. Kalin (a librarian named for my favorite second grade teacher) greets them with books that change their lives.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me who Sara in the book is modeled after. The answer: Becca Weust, a young woman with Marfan syndrome, who has taught me extraordinarily important things not just about living with this condition, but about living as well as one must. 



Look for The Great Upending on March 31, 2020. 

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