King and the dragonflies

Kacen Callender

Book - 2020

"In a small but turbulent Louisiana town, one boy's grief takes him beyond the bayous of his backyard, to learn that there is no right way to be yourself"--

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Subjects
Published
New York : Scholastic Press 2020.
Edition
First edition
Language
English
Physical Description
259 pages ; 22 cm
ISBN
9781338129335
1338129333
Main Author
Kacen Callender (author)
Review by Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* This incredible middle-grade follow-up to Callender's debut novel Hurricane Child (2018) delves into one boy's journey to self-acceptance while wading through the profound grief that has engulfed his family. King, a Black child living by the bayous of Louisiana, is dealt the double blow of losing his beloved older brother while trying to contain an identity he is sure will cause his father to stop loving him. When his former best friend, the gay son of the local sheriff, runs away, the weight of expectations and secrets leads King to examine everything he thinks he knows about being brave, being a man, and being himself. Callender handles these threads with a dexterity that deftly weaves them all together into a cohesive whole and a dynamic tale that will resonate with children struggling to reconcile who they are with what they think society wants them to be. While the adults in this story struggle to adapt to their new reality, their ability to embrace love and assuage King's doubts about his place in his family is wonderfully affirming for children of all identities. Strongly recommended for all children's collections. Grades 4-7. Copyright 2020 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* This incredible middle-grade follow-up to Callender's debut novel Hurricane Child (2018) delves into one boy's journey to self-acceptance while wading through the profound grief that has engulfed his family. King, a Black child living by the bayous of Louisiana, is dealt the double blow of losing his beloved older brother while trying to contain an identity he is sure will cause his father to stop loving him. When his former best friend, the gay son of the local sheriff, runs away, the weight of expectations and secrets leads King to examine everything he thinks he knows about being brave, being a man, and being himself. Callender handles these threads with a dexterity that deftly weaves them all together into a cohesive whole and a dynamic tale that will resonate with children struggling to reconcile who they are with what they think society wants them to be. While the adults in this story struggle to adapt to their new reality, their ability to embrace love and assuage King's doubts about his place in his family is wonderfully affirming for children of all identities. Strongly recommended for all children's collections. Grades 4-7. Copyright 2020 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Callender (Hurricane Child) returns to middle grade in this powerful tale of grief, intersectional identity, and love. Twelve-year-old Kingston "King" Reginald James lost his beloved older brother, Khalid, 16, three months before this book's start, though King believes Khalid has become a dragonfly and visits nightly in his dreams. When Charles "Sandy" Sanders—the son of the racist sheriff and King's former friend— disappears, and King realizes he was the last to see Sandy, he ponders his obligation to tell anyone; King knows Sandy is a victim of domestic abuse and suspects Sandy's father is the perpetrator. Finding Sandy hiding in his backyard, King struggles with the memory of Khalid's warning to stay away from the boy ("You don't want anyone to think you're gay, too, do you?") and their Louisiana town's homophobia as he decides to help Sandy and explores his own identity. Callender paints dream sequences in evocative prose; notable as well is their exploration of grief's impact on a family. If some side characters feel underdeveloped, it's because King himself shines wholly real as a black child learning to negotiate shifting interpersonal relationships and navigate sociocultural pressures and expectations. Ages 8–12. Agent: Beth Phelan, Gallt & Zacker Literary Agency. (Feb.) Copyright 2019 Publishers Weekly.

Review by School Library Journal Reviews

Gr 4–9—Although the bayou of Louisiana suggests something slow and gentle, 13-year-old King's contemporary story feels intense and pointed. His 16-year-old brother, Khalid, died unexpectedly of unexplained medical causes, leaving his small family reeling. Three months later, King's mom still isn't cooking and his typically stoic dad has stunned him to silence by offering a rare "I love you" while dropping him off at school. Friends and middle school romance are difficult enough but then his ex-friend Sandy goes missing. Despite a relatively simple set of events, the story delivers emotional depth via the conversations between both friends and family members. The memories of Khalid's dreamy sleep talk grippingly pluck at heartstrings, adding a romantic poetry to an already potent mix. Callender tackles some serious issues—racism, being gay, child abuse, grieving—with finesse and a heady sense of the passions and pangs of youth. On its own, this title solidifies Callender's merit as a powerful middle grade and YA author, even without following on the heels of the well-awarded Hurricane Child. VERDICT An intense, gripping tale of love, loss, and friendship featuring a black youth grappling with his dreams and his identity. Recommended for all middle grade collections.—Erin Reilly-Sanders, University of Wisconsin-Madison Copyright 2020 School Library Journal.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

In a small town in Louisiana, twelve-year-old Kingston James is sure his brother Khalid has turned into a dragonfly after his unexpected death, but when his best friend Sandy Sanders goes missing, King agrees to help him escape his abusive father.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

A 12-year-old boy spends days in the mystical Louisiana bayou to come to terms with a sibling’s sudden death, his grief-stricken family and the disappearance of his former best friend amid whispers about the latter’s sexual orientation. By the award-winning author of Hurricane Child. Simultaneous eBook. Illustrations.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

A 2021 Coretta Scott King Honor Book!Winner of the 2020 National Book Award for Young People's Literature!Winner of the 2020 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Fiction and Poetry!In a small but turbulent Louisiana town, one boy's grief takes him beyond the bayous of his backyard, to learn that there is no right way to be yourself.FOUR STARRED REVIEWS!BooklistSchool Library JournalPublishers WeeklyThe Horn BookTwelve-year-old Kingston James is sure his brother Khalid has turned into a dragonfly. When Khalid unexpectedly passed away, he shed what was his first skin for another to live down by the bayou in their small Louisiana town. Khalid still visits in dreams, and King must keep these secrets to himself as he watches grief transform his family.It would be easier if King could talk with his best friend, Sandy Sanders. But just days before he died, Khalid told King to end their friendship, after overhearing a secret about Sandy-that he thinks he might be gay. "You don't want anyone to think you're gay too, do you?"But when Sandy goes missing, sparking a town-wide search, and King finds his former best friend hiding in a tent in his backyard, he agrees to help Sandy escape from his abusive father, and the two begin an adventure as they build their own private paradise down by the bayou and among the dragonflies. As King's friendship with Sandy is reignited, he's forced to confront questions about himself and the reality of his brother's death.The Thing About Jellyfish meets The Stars Beneath Our Feet in this story about loss, grief, and finding the courage to discover one's identity, from the author of Hurricane Child.