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Reviewed by:
  • King and the Dragonflies by Kacen Callender
  • Deborah Stevenson, Editor

Callender, Kacen King and the Dragonflies. Scholastic, 2020 [256p] Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-338-12933-5 $17.99 E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-338-12935-9 $10.99 Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 4-7

It's not been long since King's older brother, Khalid, died suddenly on the basketball court, and his family is still reeling. King is also struggling after he betrays a former friend, Sandy, by revealing to classmates that Sandy is gay, a situation complicated by the fact that King's father and brother have made homophobic statements, and King thinks he may be gay himself; King's also wary of Sandy's family, since his father is a notorious racist and King is Black. When Sandy turns up in King's backyard after running away from his abusive father, a conflicted King agrees to secretly help hide Sandy, but is this a secret he should really keep? Callender deftly weaves the different plot strands together and adds atmosphere with an appealing Louisiana bayou setting. The book is astute about the changing family dynamics following a bereavement (King is thrown by his undemonstrative father's new habit of telling his son "I love you") and how hard it can be to define yourself in the absence of the person whose judgment heavily mattered. King is utterly plausible as a genuinely nice preteen kid who just doesn't have the life experience to sort out the adult-level challenges he's facing, and his classmates are well captured in vivid snapshots; the portrayal of his father, whose attempt at growth isn't always visible to his son, is believable and hopeful as well. Readers will be as relieved as King to get to an ending where he can say with trust and confidence, "We'll be all right." [End Page 204]



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