Isaiah Dunn is My Hero

by Kelly J. Baptist Year Published: 2021
Booklist starred (August 2020 (Vol. 116, No. 22))
Grades 4-7. 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.