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Isaiah Dunn is my hero
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Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* Isaiah Dunn needs a hustle like his best friend Sneaky's candy business, something to get him, his mom, and his little sister out of the smoky motel where they've been living. Things have been tough since his dad died, and his mom has been drowning her sorrow in the bottle instead of working. He finds refuge in an old notebook where his dad had written a story casting Isaiah as a superhero. If only he was. Instead, his own words—the ones that used to flow into poems—are locked in his head, and his frustration over the current state of his life is bubbling over as aggression and getting him in trouble at school. Debut author Baptist has turned her short story from Ellen Oh's Flying Lessons & Other Stories (2017) into an exceptional #OwnVoices novel. Isaiah's experiences as a 10-year-old Black child enrich the narrative, giving it an authenticity that will resonate with or stir empathy in readers. His struggles with grief and poverty are made surmountable by the strong, caring community around him. A school counselor, a librarian, former neighbors, the barber for whom Isaiah sweeps floors, and Isaiah's friends all rally around him in a realistic and heartening show of support that helps him reclaim his voice and become the hero his family needs. An uplifting, affirming story for every collection. Grades 4-7. Copyright 2020 Booklist Reviews.

Publishers Weekly Reviews

In this heartfelt middle grade debut adapted from "The Rice and Beans Chronicles of Isaiah Dunn," a short tale in 2017's Flying Lessons & Other Stories, 10-year-old Isaiah Dunn's life has been spiraling out of control since his father died four months ago. His mother struggles with alcoholism, his family is in danger of being evicted from the cheap motel they moved into after losing their apartment, and his very real frustrations—being "the only one who gets in trouble," among others—are causing problems at school. The Black boy's only comfort comes in his father's notebook of stories featuring a superheroic, fictionalized version of Isaiah. Determined to earn the money needed for a new apartment, he tries his hand at selling candy to classmates and sweeping up hair at a barbershop, while quietly connecting with his father's stories through his own emerging talents as a poet and writer. Baptist offers an age-appropriate look at burgeoning homelessness without an overly neat ending, starring an indomitable protagonist who confronts bullies and faces his own flaws. Isaiah's optimism, drive, and loyalty to friends and family make him a hero to cheer for and lend a feeling of hope to this exploration of difficult topics. Ages 8–10. Agent: Gabrielle Barnes, Diction Media Group. (Aug.)

Copyright 2020 Publishers Weekly.

School Library Journal Reviews

Gr 3–7—Isaiah Dunn is a 10-year-old boy who loves writing poetry. He develops a severe case of writer's block after his father's death leads to his mother's depression and his family's housing instability. Isaiah is trying to keep a low profile at school, but clashes with a classmate keep landing him in the principal's office. He's forced to take a mediation class with his school enemy. Isaiah tries to learn how to make peace with her as he looks for a way to make money to change his family's situation. His best friend, Sneaky, offers to let him in on his candy-selling side hustle at school. But that doesn't bring in enough money for an apartment, and his mother's depression is getting worse. Isaiah's one comfort is the notebooks full of stories about "Isaiah Dunn, superhero" that his dad left. He's hoping the notebooks will lead him to the help his family needs. VERDICT An accessible story about a child facing loss and home instability. Isaiah is a likable character; readers will identify with his struggle to rise above his family's housing issues to define himself. A great selection for school and public libraries.—Desiree Thomas, Worthington Lib., OH

Copyright 2020 School Library Journal.

Author Biography

Kelly J. Baptist won the Ezra Jack Keats/Kerlan Memorial Fellowship for her YA novel-in-progress, Young. While visiting the Kerlan Collection, Kelly had the privilege of studying the dialogue techniques of the great Walter Dean Myers. Fast-forward a few years, and Kelly was fortunate enough to meet Myers at a literary event in Florida. A native of southwest Michigan, Kelly enjoys life with her five children, who give her plenty of inspiration for writing. Though her busy family life often results in having to type with one hand, Kelly is committed to using the written word to inspire and transform lives. Find her online at - (Random House, Inc.)


Referring to his late father’s journal for advice on how to be the man of the house, young Isaiah taps the support and ideas of two school friends who help him navigate rules and manage without superpowers. By the award-winning author of Young. Simultaneous eBook. - (Baker & Taylor)

Referring to his late father's journal for advice on how to be the man of the house, young Isaiah taps the support and ideas of two school friends who help him navigate rules and manage without superpowers. - (Baker & Taylor)

A coming-of-age tale about a boy who discovers a love of poetry after finding his late father's journal. Adapted from a story that first appeared in Flying Lessons & Other Stories and perfect for fans of The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson.

Isaiah is now the big man of the house. But it's a lot harder than his dad made it look. His little sister, Charlie, asks too many questions, and Mama's gone totally silent.

Good thing Isaiah can count on his best friend, Sneaky, who always has a scheme for getting around the rules. Plus, his classmate Angel has a few good ideas of her own--once she stops hassling Isaiah.

And when things get really tough, there's Daddy's journal, filled with stories about the amazing Isaiah Dunn, a superhero who gets his powers from beans and rice. Isaiah wishes his dad's tales were real. He could use those powers right about now!

Kelly J. Baptist's debut novel explores the indomitable spirit of a ten-year-old boy and the superhero strength it takes to grow up.

"Isaiah's optimism, drive, and loyalty to friends and family make him a hero to cheer for." -Publishers Weekly, Starred Review - (Random House, Inc.)

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