Posts Tagged George Floyd

When the World Turned Upside Down: Author Interview + Giveaway

I am excited to have gotten a chance to read When the World Turned Upside Down by K. Ibura before it comes out. It took me right back to the start of the COVID-19 quarantine and all the unknowns that went with it.

It is rare that kids get to read about circumstances they have encountered that will become such a part of history (and is still going on today). Teachers, I really think you’ll love this book as there’s so much to discuss throughout.

About the Book

Hi K.! Thank you for sharing When the World Turned Upside Down with me. Can you give us a short summary about the book?
I’d be happy to. When the World Turned Upside follows four friends—Shayla, Liam, Ai, and Ben—as they navigate all the unexpected changes that COVID-19 brought to our lives. Set in 2020 at the beginning of the panic, the book walks through the shock of school closing and explores the struggle and isolation each kid faces at home. As they’re managing the loss of their normal lives, they soon realize they aren’t the only ones struggling. They find others in their apartment complex who need help with a variety of things and band together to support their building community.

Social justice comes into play, as the kids learn to overcome tough times and to use their voices to help their communities.

When does it come out?
The book hits bookstores on Feb 1. It was originally scheduled for November, but we hit some COVID-related delays. Excited to see it reach readers!

About the Author

Tell us about you. I read you’re an artist. I’d love to know more!
Yes, I come from a creative family. My sister was a visual artist first, but when I was young we would collage furniture, make people oversized birthday cards, and draw fashionable people from our imagination. Years later I started painting and more recently, I found my way back to collage. I even opened an Etsy store. Being creative makes me feel alive. 

What was your path to becoming an author?
I started writing in college after a classmate suffered a racist incident on public transportation. The story hooked me, bothering me until I finally decided to write it down. That first story got published, and from there I kept going, writing speculative stories for magazines and anthologies—and eventually writing two short story collections. When the World Turned Upside Down is my debut novel and my first book for young people. I’m excited to enter this new arena as a writer. 

Photo credit: Nyki Elle


First, I am impressed that you got the idea for the book in April 2020 and finished your final draft in January 2021 (that has to be a record!). Knowing you had a timely topic, did you have to work differently than you’re used to?
I definitely worked differently with this book. I have historically struggled to write novels. I’m a writer who discovers what I’m writing as I go along. That’s fine for short stories because you can write many many drafts until you get where you’re trying to go. It’s a lot harder for novels because they’re so long. You’ll run out of steam if you write too many drafts. When I decided to do this book, I knew it had to be done quickly to remain timely, I decided to be more completion minded. For the first time, I wrote an outline—I used the outline to sell the book, then evolved it into a plot chart that I used in the various round to keep up with the characters and plot points. Given we were in the middle of the pandemic, the story was evolving as I wrote, so my goal was to be limber, to listen to my characters, and to focus on creating a functional whole.

What was your original spark for the book?
I wanted to look at what kids survived during COVID. It was a time period that I was extremely aware of all the issues adults were going through, but I kept thinking—kids are going through the exact same challenges. We were all stuck in the house together. We couldn’t hide our challenges and anxieties the way we usually do. Kids were less sheltered from the impact of COVID-19, and I wanted to look at what that was like for them to survive this all-encompassing, unavoidable historical moment.

What research did you need to do?
I did research to build important elements of the character’s backgrounds. I researched childhood anxiety for Liam’s character and Indonesian culture and foods for Ai’s character. I cannibalized stories I heard from others during the pandemic of events that happened to them. In trying to determine who the kids would eventually come to use their voices, I read essays written by 5th graders about social justice—I wanted to understand what social justice meant to them and how they would express it for themselves. Finally I read two books for young people (This Book Is Anti-Racist by Tiffany Jewell and Not My Idea by Anastasia Higginbotham) about identity and society to help me determine what the parameters were that I would include in the informative conversations about social justice. 

I love your cast of characters. What pieces of the characters are reflections of yourself?
That’s a hard question for me to answer. These characters came to me fully formed. I didn’t have to create them—as I thought of them, their personalities and interests were already there. I’m sure there are pieces of them that reflect me, but I don’t know which pieces of them reflect me. This book was unique in that I was more guided by the moment and the experiences of these characters in this moment. In that way, it almost felt like an external mandate. Like these characters were on a mission and I was in service of them, their stories and this historical moment.

Do you think you’ll create a sequel or companion book with these characters?
I’ve certainly thought about it. I can definitely see these four evolving and their relationships evolving along with their individual growth. Maybe we’ll need to get out of the pandemic and have a new impactful world event I can put them through.

I see you have a new young adult series coming in the fall 2022. Tell us a little about that.
Yes, I’m returning to the world of speculative fiction with my next book. It is the story of a teenager with mysterious powers who is raised in isolation by her grandmother. When her grandmother becomes ill, she is thrust out into the outside world. She not only has to learn what it means to be a teenager, she has to confront mysterious forces that teach her about her history and demand that she makes heartbreaking choices for her future. I can’t wait for readers to meet the heroine and fall in love with her!

Information for Teachers

Your book addresses George Floyd’s murder as well as racial inequality. Sensitive topics such as this can be difficult to address with this age group. Would you care to share your thoughts on this?
I think the difficulty is more with adults than with kids. In general, kids have a strong sense of justice and fairness. When kids ask why things are that way, as adults we fumble for answers. The realities of inequality are painful and as adults, we have to learn how to adjust to the injustices of the world that we see on a daily basis. After a lifetime of making these adjustments, it can be hard to be honest about them with children. Once we are having authentic discussions with children, we then have to reflect on ourselves and the roles we may or may not be playing in systems of inequality. 

One potential entry point is to have a weekly celebration of justice warriors—spotlighting people who are fighting for justice. These warriors can cover all areas of inequality, from imbalances in food access, to environmental justice, to gender equality to racial justice. By looking at the positive work individual people are doing you can provide positive examples to children, giving them an inspiring entry point into heavy topics. You can pair these spotlights with an age-appropriate investigation into the area the social justice warrior is looking to impact. Acts of justice are all around us—in the classroom, at home, on the playground, and all over the world. Showing students how others are using their voices goes a long way to empowering students to take note of areas of justice that matter to them.

What websites and books do you recommend for teachers who want to share your book with their class and want to go further into the topic of becoming aware of racial inequality and/or creating social justice?
I mentioned both This Book Is Anti-Racist by Tiffany Jewell and Not My Idea by Anastasia Higginbotham in response to an earlier question. One thing I love about This Book Is Anti-Racist is it centers on identity. I think so often it’s easy for people to forget that justice issues are rooted in identity. This Book Is Anti-Racist provides a roadmap for kids to acknowledge and celebrate their own identities and become more aware of other’s identities. It’s a meaningful foundation for anti-racist work. Not My Idea does the important work of separating her identity as a White person from racism because racism was not her idea, she argues, she doesn’t have to protect or defend it. In a picture book format, the book works to powerful disconnect a White identity from an allegiance to racism. I recommend both books for people of all ages.

Are you doing a virtual tour in support of this book? Tell us more!
Yes! I’ll be embarking on a free-to-attend virtual tour in partnership with three Black-owned bookstores, and I’ll be appearing in conversation with a different fellow middle grade author at each tour stop:

  • 1/31 @ 7:30pm ETCharis Books & More, in conversation with Varian Johnson (author of Playing the Cards You’re Dealt)
  • 2/1 @ 5pm MT – Tattered Cover, in conversation with Ibi Zoboi (author of Star Child: A Biographical Constellation of Octavia Estelle Butler)
  • 2/2 @ 6pm ET Source Booksellers, in conversation with Brandy Colbert (author of Black Birds in the Sky)

How can we learn more about you?; Facebook and IG: @kiburabooks; Twitter: @K_Ibura; Patreon:

I thought it might be interesting to ask the readers a specific question to answer in the comments. Is there anything you’d like readers to comment on? 
In 2020, I reactivated book clubs, writing groups, art clubs, and starting cooking again. I dropped it all in 2021 and just focused on writing and puzzles. What did you pick up in year 1 of the pandemic? What did you drop in year 2? What do you think is coming in Year 3?

Thank you for your time.

K. Ibura will be giving a copy of When the World Turned Upside Down to a lucky reader. Enter the giveaway below for a chance to win a copy. (U.S. addresses only, no P.O. Boxes)

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Our Hearts are Heavy

Our hearts are heavy at the Mixed-Up Files and in the kidlit community this week, grieving with the family of George Floyd and the anguish playing out across America.

George FLoyd Mural Minneapolis

Kidlit Community Always Calls for Justice

In kidlit, when there is injustice and tragedy, we always want to jump in and help. We create auctions to raise money for causes and struggling authors. We speak out on social media and in our books, create hashtags, and call for justice.

Even when we’re not in crisis, we look ahead; we write books shining a light on inequality and then consider how things could be better. We insist on a vision of the future where all children can live in and create a better world than the one we’re giving them, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, gender, or sexuality.

When it Feels Hopeless

But this week, that work feels hopeless. Our cities are burning. MY city is burning. I used to live in Minneapolis, and before that, I grew up in a college town 40 minutes south of the Twin Cities. And now I live in the DC area, where my mother grew up, and her city is burning too. Every single state in the country has had a protest in the last 24 hours.

Our hearts are breaking, and they’re also hot with the same fury and frustration that is lighting fires everywhere. My mother desegregated her high school back in 1957. She was the first African American girl to march with the drum corps, withstanding the outcry from White parents who threatened to take out their daughters if the Black girl was allowed to march.  She and my step-father moved us to Minnesota in the mid-70’s, hoping to raise their children in a place where the color of our skin wouldn’t put us in danger.

And partly, they were right: we never had a knee to the neck. But is that what success looks like? To still be alive in spite of the color of our skin? Is that the best we can do?

Is Minnesota Racist?

Minnesota has always wanted to believe it didn’t have a problem with racism, not with its overall high quality of life and rich cultural arts scene in the Twin Cities. But it did. Covered up under the “we don’t see color” mantra, Minnesota’s racism is insidious and at times, aggressively ignorant.

That said, I want to be clear: my siblings and I have been fortunate to be lifelong friends with groups of White allies. While we did struggle with microaggressions and some outright uglinesses during our years there, we also rejoiced in the support of an educated community that did the work to understand what this is all about and what they can do to help. Our experience with racism has reflected the complexities and nuance embedded in this issue.


Half a century after the Civil Rights Act was signed, this country as a whole still hasn’t done the work. Black people still aren’t safe; we are still taking a knee, we are still asking for equal justice, we are still shouting into the wilderness that #BlackLivesMatter. And now, because no one listened, we are lighting cities on fire.

But I can’t believe that’s going to work either. We can’t keep torching our community, and we can’t let outsiders come in and do it either. They’re taking advantage of the chaos to destroy businesses built over a lifetime, businesses started with life savings, businesses that provide food, medicine, and essentials to people who have made homes in these neighborhoods.

Barack Obama said today: If we want our criminal justice system, and American society at large, to operate on a higher ethical code, then we have to model that code ourselves.

What Can Kidlit Do Now?

Many of us have felt helpless as we watch endless streams of protest video. But we’re not helpless. Because we at MUF are writers, teachers, parents, and librarians, there is something kidlit can do now. In fact, we are on the front lines of that mission. More than ever now, we must promote books that investigate and envision that higher ethical code. We must support books written by Black authors and encourage others to do the same. We must use our voices every day to insist on more diverse representation in the publishing world: more Black editors and agents. More #ownvoices rather than BIPOC characters written by White people. We must refuse to work with people who do not support this mission.

((For more on the numbers in publishing, see this archived MUF post.))

We Need Diverse Books

Finally, we must get more diverse books in our children’s hands and on library shelves. If we have any hope of their being able to do what we couldn’t: dismantle systemic racism and bring about meaningful change, we must start the conversation now.

Here are some ideas for places to look for diverse books to read with your children, to start conversations, and to use your voice to help all of us emerge from this crucible with a way forward:

  1. Embrace Race: 31 Books to Support Conversations about Race
  2. We Need Diverse Books: Where to Find Diverse Books
  3. Anti-Defamation League: Books Matter
  4. From the Mixed-Up Files: Diversity in MG Lit (regular blog series)
  5. African American Literature Book Club: A List of Black-Owned Bookstores
  6. Kidlit Rally 4 Black Lives: Anti-Racist Resources for Children, Families, and Educators
  7. Lee and Low Books: Summer Diverse Book List