Kacen Callender

Back to Previous Page



February 2020, Scholastic, 272 pp

From the Stonewall and Lambda Book Award-winning author of HURRICANE CHILD comes the National Book Award-winning novel about loss, grief, and finding the courage to discover one’s identity.

Twelve-year-old Kingston James is sure his brother Khalid has turned into a dragonfly after his sudden death, shedding what King considers was his first skin to live down by the bayou in their small Louisiana town. Khalid visits King in his dreams, but tells him not to tell anyone that he’s become a dragonfly, and so King keeps the secret to himself as he watches his parents evolve through their grief, and works through his own building anger and sadness at having lost his brother. To make matters worse, just days before his death, Khalid overheard King’s best friend Sandy telling King a secret—that he thinks he might be gay—so Khalid made King end their friendship. But when King finds Sandy 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 amongst the dragonflies. THE THING ABOUT JELLYFISH meets THE STARS BENEATH OUR FEET.


SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL – “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.

THE HORN BOOK – “Masterfully balances resonant themes of grief, love, family, friendship, racism, sexuality, and coming-of-age.”

BOOKLIST – “Strongly recommended for all children’s collections.”

SHELF AWARENESS – “Kacen Callender’s second middle-grade novel deftly confronts racism and homophobia as a black teen struggles to find “a new normal” after the sudden death of his brother.”

PUBLISHERS WEEKLY – “Callender…returns to middle grade in this powerful tale of grief, intersectional identity, and love.”


  • 2020 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature
  • 2020 Coretta Scott King Honor
  • 2020 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award
  • A 2020 School Library Journal Best Book
  • A 2020 Publishers Weekly Best Book
  • A 2020 Barnes & Noble Best Book
  • A 2020 Shelf Awareness Best Book
  • 2020 Jane Addams Children’s Book Award finalist
  • A YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults Selection


CatalanL'altra Editorial
DutchQuerido Kinderboeken
JapaneseSakuhin-sha Ltd.
KoreanSakyejul Publishing Ltd.
Portuguese (Brazil)Editora Nacional
SpanishKakao Books
UKScholastic UK

NOTE: English Audio rights sold to Scholastic Audio