Review of Isaiah Dunn Is My Hero

Isaiah Dunn Is My Hero
by Kelly J. Baptist
Intermediate, Middle School    Crown    195 pp.    g
8/20    978-0-593-12136-8    $16.99
Library ed.  978-0-593-12137-5    $19.99
e-book ed.  978-0-593-12138-2    $9.99

Isaiah Dunn is not your typical hero. Heroes usually win, but Isaiah seems to experience a lot of losses: losing his father on Thanksgiving Day, losing his home, and almost losing his mother to depression and alcoholism. He has also lost his ability to write poetry — an outlet that had once allowed him to express his emotions, experiences, and anxieties. Isaiah connects to his dad’s memory through the stories his father wrote for him in a notebook, featuring a superhero also named Isaiah. This notebook is Isaiah’s prized possession, and he takes it with him everywhere, savoring the stories within. Achingly realistic, the novel shines a light on children living with the secret burden of homelessness and its impact on a child’s social and emotional development. Isaiah assumes a lot of responsibility and pressure to try and solve his family’s problems — taking care of his younger sister, trying to earn money for a place to live — leaving very little time to just be a normal kid. For Isaiah, there are many obstacles to becoming the superhero in his dad’s stories, but he learns that sometimes the most heroic of superheroes needs a little help. In this moving tale of life, loss, and the love of words, Isaiah learns that perseverance and vulnerability are real superpowers and that family and community are the real wind beneath a superhero’s cape.

From the July/August 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Monique Harris

Monique Harris is a public educator, reading specialist and independent educational consultant. She holds a Master of Science degree in Education from Simmons University, and is enrolled in a PhD program at Florida State University.

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