Book Review: The Eyes and the Impossible, by Dave Eggers, Newbery Medal (2024), Audie Award Nominee for Best Fiction Narrator (2024)   Recommended for ages 8-14, or grades 3-7  Please note: this book is not yet in the Pageturner library and will require student requests for purchases to be made.
This is an engrossing novel about a group of best friends who are all animals in an urban park.  First we meet the Eye, otherwise Johannes, a free, multi-colored dog who can run "faster than lightning" by his own admission.  It's his job to report everything he sees--all the goings on in the park--to three ancient bison who are kept in a penned area away from the crowds. For the park animals, the bison are the Keepers of the Equilibrium: the peacefulness of their park. The friends meet daily and the Eye reports to the bison so that life flows as it should. Bertrand is an assistant Eye; he is a seagull with the gentile, slightly pompous yet self-effacing air of a favorite college literature professor; Johannes considers Bertrand to be his mentor.  Another of the Eyes is a pelican named Yolanda. Next there's Sonja, a squirrel who’s MISSING an eye:
"Sonja raised her small face to the Sun, something she does up here on those rare sunny days. Sonja lives much of the time under the trees, in the shade of the pines and eucalyptus, so when she comes up here she aims her face to the Sun and in this way listens to God. With her good eye closed she looks so peaceful.”
Then there's Angus, leader of the raccoons, who are often called upon to help the rest because of the obvious benefits of their opposable thumbs:
"...[R]accoons are nocturnal, so Angus is usually late to our meetings and sometimes does not show up at all. I have repeatedly told him that he doesn’t have to attend, and doesn’t have to be an Assistant Eye, given his sleep habits, but he insists that he wants to be with us, wants to be
an Assistant Eye, and I’m happy he insists. He sees much at night that we cannot. He is also a bit chubby, as are all the raccoons in this park, given the abundance and variety of food available here...As far as the humans knew there were no raccoons at all in this park. Ha, we thought. Ha ha hoooooo! There are so many raccoons.” Ha ha hooooo! is Johannes’ favorite expression.  He does not bark. (This is a clue.)
Johannes’ attention is captivated by paintings at the park’s arts fair. While distracted, he’s kidnapped by thieves and addicts. In a hilarious scene after The Keystone Cops but with dumb bad guys, he escapes with the help of the Eyes. Then he rescues a little girl from the so-called “peanut pond,” who fell off a bridge.  And now a LOT of people take notice.  They take photos.  They want to catch him, either because he's a hero or because they believe he's dangerous.  So his team concocts a disguise, providing him a ridiculous pink doggie parka and a collar with plastic rhinestones. Angus is obliged to wrestle this laughable costume over his head, tugging this way and that, claiming he must be "part pit" because his head is SO BIG! (Indeed, we have a pit, and her head IS massive.  When she rests her head on our legs, they soon grown numb from the weight.) This may or may not be a clue.
Johannes is trapped by this unwelcome celebrity, but it's the bison he considers first.  He decides they must be freed from the pen they've been in "for a thousand years."  He's met a goat, as park personnel have brought in goats to eliminate a large patch of thorny weeds.  He thinks there must be ten thousand goats in the park!  But he meets one who is sophisticated and wise: Helene.  She's being horribly bullied by the other goats because “the lines on her horns'” are deemed unacceptable.  Goats, though, are herded by dogs, so when he admonishes them and insists Helene is to be treated just like everybody else, they all bow in mute acceptance. "I couldn’t think of anything else to say, so I said, “Now go forth and eat some weeds.” 
There are so many twists and turns in this book! Always thinking of others first, Johannes decides that the bison, those dear, venerable beings, need to be set free. This is THE IMPOSSIBLE of the novel’s title. Helene devises a plan. The goats came to the park on a ship; now the Eyes learn their park is actually on an island. Helene thinks that if the goats are all jumping up and down on their way to the ship to go home, they’ll be able to hide the much larger bison long enough for all of them to board. The ship will carry them away to the mainland.  It’s a solid scheme and is about to work when the bison, too tired to go on, decide at the last minute they’re simply not cut out for freedom.  Meanwhile, Bertrand’s suffered a pierced wing playing Dodge the Arrows at the archery field and can no longer fly; crippled and ashamed, he prepares to die.  Further, the bison elders shock Johannes with information that he is not who--or what-- he has always believed himself to be.  He may not want to die, but he’d better think of something, fast.  And so, with Bertrand standing proud on his back, and Johannes goat-sized and easily hidden, the pair leave the island for new adventures in another world.  And one-eyed Sonja will be the next Eye!
This sweet novel has some lessons for all of us:
"The notion that everything was complicated was itself sort of simple, and that made me smile. If we go through life assuming everything will be complicated, and then it is complicated, doesn’t that make us better prepared? What I mean is, if we expect life to be complicated, and life is complicated, then life is simple, right? I needed to tell Bertrand this thought I had, this wonderful circular idea I had. I had a feeling he’d like it.
"Every reasonable creature knows that the worst thing any creature can do all day is think of themselves. If there are troubles in your mind, you should think first of the troubles of others; it is the essence of liberation. That is, freedom begins the moment we forget ourselves."
*Throughout this book many great landscape paintings are reproduced with a single small animal added: the Eye.  They are listed in author Eggers' afterward and are worth looking for elsewhere online, to see them in greater detail.