Cover image for King and the dragonflies
Title:
King and the dragonflies
ISBN:
9781338129335
Edition:
1st ed.
Physical Description:
259 pages ; 22 cm.
Geographic Term:
Summary:
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.
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Summary

Summary

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 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 .


Author Notes

Kacen Callender's debut novel, Hurricane Child , was the winner of the 2019 Stonewall Book Award and the 2019 Lambda Literary Award, as well as a Kirkus Best Book of 2018. Born and raised in St. Thomas of the US Virgin Islands, they enjoy playing video games and watching anime and reality TV shows in their free time. Kacen currently lives and writes in Philadelphia.


Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

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.)


Horn Book Review

In their second middle-grade novel (Hurricane Child, rev. 5/18), set in contemporary small-town Louisiana, Callender masterfully balances resonant themes of grief, love, family, friendship, racism, sexuality, and coming-of-age. Twelve-year-old King copes with the sudden death of his beloved older brother, Khalid, who used to talk in his sleep while dreaming about visiting another universe. King believes his brother has left his body behind like a second skin and become a dragonfly. He tries to keep Khalid close by remembering the dreaming Khalids philosophical musings (Theres no such thing as happiness. No such thing as sadness, or anger, or anything elseTheres just youThat star inside you). Meanwhile, King is keeping secrets: his friend Sandy has run away from an abusive father (the towns sheriff), and King is sheltering him; Sandy is gay, and so, King gradually accepts, is he. Both boys know they are facing homophobia, which will be even more oppressive for King because its compounded by racial prejudice (King is African American; Sandy is white). Callenders portrayal of tween angst and awakeningincluding Kings authentically devised evolutionanchors this deeply affecting, memorable novel. Well-rounded supporting characters are believable and relatable in a story line that addresses serious issues with unreserved honesty and heightened sensitivity. Pauletta Brown Bracy January/February 2020 p.87(c) Copyright 2020. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Booklist 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.--Shaunterria Owens Copyright 2020 Booklist


School Library Journal Review

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


Kirkus Review

In the wake of his brother's death, a black boy struggles with grief and coming out. When Kingston's white friend Sandy came out to him a few months ago, Kingston's older brother, Khalid, told him to stay away from Sandy because King wouldn't want people to think he was gay too. And then Khalid died. Their mom wants him to see someone, but King refuses because he knows he has nothing to say except that he is sad. Although his dad says boys don't cry, King can't stop the tears from coming every time he thinks of Khalid. But King knows that his brother is not really gone: Khalid "shed his skin like a snake" and is now a dragonfly. Complicating King's grief over the sudden loss of his brother is the fear that Khalid would not still love him if he knew the truthKing is gay. Every day after school King walks to the bayou searching for Khalid, wondering if he can ever share who he is. When Sandy goes missing, King must come to terms with the true cost of shame. The tale is set in Louisiana, and Callender's vivid descriptions of the rural area King calls home are magical; readers will feel the heat and the sweat, see the trees and the moss. This quiet novel movingly addresses toxic masculinity, homophobia in the black communityespecially related to menfear, and memory.Elegiac and hopeful. (Fiction. 8-12) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.