FICTION

King and the Dragonflies

Scholastic. Feb. 2020. 272p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781338129335.
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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.

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