cover image King and the Dragonflies

King and the Dragonflies

Kacen Callender. Scholastic Press, $17.99 (272p) ISBN 978-1-338-12933-5

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. [em]Agent: Beth Phelan, Gallt & Zacker Literary Agency. (Feb.) [/em]