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King and the Dragonflies

4.43  ·  Rating details ·  76 ratings  ·  18 reviews
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
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published February 4th 2020 by Scholastic Press
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Average rating 4.43  · 
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Chelsea (chelseadolling reads)
Absolutely stunning.
Nenia ⚡ Aspiring Evil Overlord ⚡ Campbell

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KING AND THE DRAGONFLIES is an odd, bittersweet book. I wasn't sure what to make of it while reading it, and to be honest, I'm still kind of trying to figure out my thoughts. King is a young boy living in Louisiana, struggling to deal with his grief over his older brother's death. That's not his only problem, either. He's alienated his best friend by outing him as gay, partially out of fear that his own sexuality might also come into
Callender's second MG is just as beautiful as their first, which isn't an easy thing to achieve. This one is the heartrendingly hopeful tale of a boy named King growing up in the Louisiana bayou, grieving his brother’s sudden death. Khalid had been his idol, and the only thing King knows for sure that he wanted is for King to stay away from Sandy, the gay kid in his class. It’s kind of a problem, since not only did they used to be close friends, but Sandy was the one person who understood King’s ...more
Richelle Robinson
Shelly's Book Corner received a review copy from Amazon Vine and voluntarily provided an honest review. This does not affect the opinion of the book or the content of the review.


This book had a lot going on at times and it was intense. This book was a little depressing if I am being honest. It touched on a death in the family. Child abuse. Dealing with prejudice, closed minded and racist people. It also talked about how being gay in the black community is such a big taboo. As a black
King knows his older brother, Khalid, was turned into a dragonfly after seeing one perched at the funeral. Since Khalid's death, King has never felt more alone. His parents are silent, his friends don't know what to say, and his ex-best friend, Sandy, has run away from home. When King finds Sandy living in his backyard, he begins to question the reason he stopped talking to him-- Sandy is gay. King has his own identity to reflect on in the process, weighing what it means to be a gay Black boy, ...more
Dec 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Review to come
Callender has done it again—gifting us with a powerful, yet quiet book about a Black tween exploring/understanding their sexual identity. There is a lot of pain and sadness in this book. But, within the pages there is more love, poetry, forgiveness, acceptance and hope!

King and the Dragonflies would be a gorgeous film. I hope students enjoy it.
Laura Gardner
Jan 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing

KING AND THE DRAGONFLIES made my heart race, ache and sing. I couldn't put this one down and I bet you won't be able to either. @kacen.callender has written an intense, gorgeous book about acceptance, love, and grief. I love the way this book explores the difficulty of letting go of prejudice. MUST BUY for grades 4+. Can't wait to get this one in the hands of kids. (thanks to the publisher @scholasticinc for the free review copy that I'll share with #kidlitexchange; this book
Dec 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
The author touched on several really important life topics here, such as grief, LGBTQ equality, child abuse, and the ability to change old beliefs. The ending was a little too neatly wrapped up in a bow, which seemed far fetched given what I know of child abuse, but that may just be Middle Grade typical writing. This is not a genre I usually read. I found the main character to be likable and relatable. His parents were very real in their grief, their imperfections, and their love for their son. ...more
Dec 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
A beautiful middle grade novel about grief, friendship, family, race, and sexuality.

When his older brother dies, King is submerged in grief, as are his parents. King's grief is complicated, however, by the anger and dismay he feels about something his brother said to him shortly before he died. As a result of his brother's comments, King is also grieving the loss of his best friend whom he exiled -- and who is now missing.

What I loved most about this novel was the juxtaposition of the sparse,
Rachel Goldstein
Feb 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is the first of Callender's middle-grade that I've read, and it's flat-out amazing. Fantastic voice, characters, and development; setting/atmosphere you could sink right into; complicated treatment of grief and queer identity and race, and everyday living amid all of those things. It's the kind of book that had me crying on the subway, but not necessarily tragic tears. Highly recommended for any middle-grade contemporary reader.

CW for (recent) past death of a child (King's older brother),
Ms. Yingling
Nov 14, 2019 rated it liked it
This covers lots of topics: grief over the death of a brother, racism in Louisiana, issues of friendship, and a struggling LGBTQIA+ character. It was a lot to process, and the book was understandably slow and sad. The main character also thinks that his deceased brother has turned into a dragonfly, hence the title.

Just not what I need right now, although I have a lot of students ask for LGBTQIA+ titles. I just wish they were happier choices, like Pancholy's The Best At It.
Feb 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Actual Rating: 4.5 stars

I decided to round up, because I think this book was fantastic. I only am docking half a star because I think the ending was a little rushed. I would not have been opposed to another 50 pages or so. That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed every page we DID get!
Jan 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I received and read an advance uncorrected proof of this book from a friend. I think it will be an award winner for sure!
Priscilla Thomas
Nov 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Dec 30, 2019 marked it as unread-digital
Shelves: ya, queer-trans, sff
Mentioned in a blog post at
Oct 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Please read my review on under C. Wong. Thank you.
Dec 13, 2019 added it
Shelves: 2019, arc-galley
Queer content: MC is questioning gay, homophobia

Other: I cannot possibly figure out when this book is supposed to be set. I looked into temperatures in Louisiana/New Orleans and there's talk about going to Mardi Gras but also the possibility of someone getting heatstroke?
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