We’re back with our second selection for CPI Medal Mania! As previously mentioned, once a week we will be sharing a title with you we feel is destined for literary award greatness and possibly the Newbery medal and/or honor!
Newbery Prediction #2: King and the Dragonflies by Kacen Callender
Publication Date: 02/04/2020
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Find it on our website HERE.
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.
Why have we chosen this title?
It is no surprise on our end if this title ends up on SEVERAL award winner prediction lists. Callender’s previous middle grade title Hurricane Child went on to win a Stonewall Honor Book award as well as the Lambda Literary Award. There is no sophomore slump here when it comes to their second middle grade novel!
Packed with emotion and feelings from the very beginning, this book takes you on a journey that you won’t ever forget. Full of so much heart, confusion, sadness and friendship, King will stay with you forever. I think one of my favorite parts about this book and one of the things that Callender truly excels at is setting description. You are in King’s small Louisiana town; you are in front of the bayou with King as he looks at the dragonflies hoping to see his brother. You feel the heat of the air, the sadness in his heart and the buzzing of the wings. Callender is an expert at putting the reader right there into the scene with the characters. In addition to all of this you also have this expert storytelling about identity, grief, friendship, courage, adventure and even a bit of mystery all while weaving in major social issues that need to be discussed and addressed. It is incredibly powerful and will stay with you for a very long time.