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!
School Library Journal
The Horn Book
Twelve-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.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
This novel sensitively explores the compounding issues that can make it so hard for young people to come out in the Black community. Set in a small Louisiana town, King and the Dragonflies follows 12-year-old Kingston, who is reeling from a shattering family tragedy when he’s hit with a new crisis. King’s best friend, Sandy, is running away from his abusive father after telling him he’s gay—and he desperately needs help. Kacen Callender does a great job putting us right in young King’s head as he deals with wrenching inner conflict. Although his family vocally disapproves of Sandy, King can’t turn his back on their friendship—or the truth about himself. Callender’s brave and impactful story shines a light on the feelings of grief and loss that often color coming-of-age experiences. We found this to be a very inspiring read.
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.)