Isaiah Dunn is My Hero

by by K.J. Baptist Year Published: Year Published: 2020

Since ten-year-old Isaiah Dunn's father passed away, his grieving mother has started drinking and lost her job. They've lost their apartment too. Isaiah, his mom and four-year-old sister, Charlie, are living in a motel room, a fact Isaiah is hiding from his best friend. African American Isaiah finds comfort in his father's old notebooks, full of poetry and short stories about Isaiah as a superhero. Writing is important to poet Isaiah, too. Credibly naïve, he's hoping to earn enough selling poems to get his family into an apartment again; he also enters one of his father's short stories into a contest at the library, hoping for the cash prize. It takes second place, winning an amount far from enough to change their lives. But their lives are improving for other reasons, from his friendship with Angel, a classmate who bullied him until they discover through a conflict resolution program how much they have in common, to the help of a former neighbor who takes them in. Isaiah's mom, who's overwhelmed but trying, goes into rehab, and a public librarian whose been mentoring Isaiah helps him spearhead a library project to honor his late dad. Isaiah is a vibrant, likable character caught in the midst of family struggles that are very real. If the story's upbeat outcome on every front is a little too good to be true, it feels welcome, and a testament to the importance of kindness, community, and compassion.