Praise for King and the Dragonflies:
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!
*"[A] dynamic tale that will resonate with children struggling to reconcile who they are with what they think society wants them to be."-Booklist, starred review
*"Callender tackles some serious issues...with finesse and a heady sense of the passions and pangs of youth...this title solidifies Callender's merit as a powerful middle grade and YA author... An intense, gripping tale of love, loss, and friendship featuring a black youth grappling with his dreams and his identity."-School Library Journal, starred review
*"Callender masterfully balances resonant themes of grief, love, family, friendship, racism, sexuality, and coming-of-age...deeply affecting, memorable."-The Horn Book, starred review
*"[A] powerful tale of grief, intersectional identity, and love."-Publishers Weekly, starred review
"Callender's vivid descriptions...are magical...Elegiac and hopeful."-Kirkus Reviews
"From the opening sentence, King and the Dragonflies sings the complications of loving and caring for imperfect and wounded people. Callender sets us deep into King's mind and life, and never lets go of the reins. They don't pull punches...and thank goodness for that!"-Alex Gino, the Stonewall and Lambda Literary Award-winning author of George
"This sensitive and powerful story speaks to any reader trying to find the courage to be themselves in a complicated world. King's heartbreaking, beautiful, and ultimately hopeful journey helps him come to terms with family loss and his own complex identity."-Veera Hiranandani, Newbery Honor Award Winning author of The Night Diary
"Young readers will find friends and allies aplenty in Kacen Callender's vital novel, King and the Dragonflies, which flutters with life, love, loss, and resilience, a story as iridescent and complex as a dragonfly's wings."-Alex London, author of Proxy and Black Wings Beating
"King and the Dragonflies is a lyrical coming of age tale about grief, friendship, family, belonging, identity, and hope. I honestly could not put this book down. This is a story that will stay with you long after you finish reading."-Aisha Saeed, New York Times bestselling author of Amal Unbound
Praise for Hurricane Child:
* "Writing in Caroline's present-tense voice, Callender draws readers in and makes them identify with Caroline's angst and sorrow and joy and pain. Embedding her appealing protagonist in a fully realized Caribbean setting, Callender has readers rooting for Caroline the whole way." -Kirkus Reviews, starred review
* "Lush descriptions bring the Caribbean environment to vivid life...An excellent and nuanced coming-of-age tale."-School Library Journal, starred review
* "Set against the richly evoked backdrop of the Caribbean, Callender's novel captures the exquisite agony and pain that accompanies rejection and abandonment. Caroline's search for answers provides a steady through line for the story, but it's the deeper questioning and reflection that set this book apart.... Visceral, pensive, and memorable." -Booklist, starred 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
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 truth—King 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 community—especially related to men—fear, and memory.
Elegiac and hopeful. (Fiction. 8-12)