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12 year old King has a lot on his plate. Black, gay, and secretly sheltering his white friend Sandy (also gay) who has run away from his abusive (cop) father, King is trying to navigate how to grieve the sudden death of his revered older brother. While this may seem like a lot to tackle in one middle grade novel, author Kacen Callender beautifully and respectfully addresses all of these important issues, leaving the reader breathless with heartbreak, empathy, and ultimately--hope. An important addition to your reading list of books that highlight the necessary work of sowing the seeds of compassion for all, regardless of skin color or sexual identity.— Claire Armstrong
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.