Isaiah Dunn Is My Hero [Book Review]

October 21, 2020

Isaiah Dunn Is My Hero by Kelly J. Baptist

Isaiah Dunn Is My Hero by Kelly Baptist (cover) Image: the back view of a middle grade boy wearing a blue superhero cape and holding a pencil

Genre/Categories: Middle Grade Realistic Fiction, Family Issues, Poverty, Homelessness, Grief, African American

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.


Are you someone’s Hero?

Isaiah is the older brother and is grieving the loss of his father. Isaiah feels the burden of holding the family together. The most important people in his life include his four-year-old sister who never stops asking questions, his mother who is depressed and drinking too much, and his best friend Sneaky. Because of her grief, Mom has taken a leave of absence from her job and they lose their apartment when she has difficulty paying the rent. As the pressure mounts, Isaiah gets in trouble at school and fights with his best friend. Isaiah’s one true comfort is reading the stories in his dad’s journal that his dad wrote for him, and his safe place is the library. In his dad’s stories, Isaiah is a hero and Isaiah ponders how he can be a hero and help his family.

a cartoon drawing of several superheroes

My Thoughts:

Can librarians, barbers, and neighbors be heroes?

Heroes: I love the “hero” theme in this story that plays out on many different levels. Of course, Isaiah is a hero as he bravely manages his daily life and grieves for his dad at the same time. His little sister views Isaiah as her hero as he cares for her and reads to her. There are unsung heroes in the story, as well, as we consider the librarian, the barber, and a caring neighbor. I love that compassionate, insightful, and caring people in the community find it in their hearts to be heroes to struggling kids. All MG fiction weaves in an element of hope, and it’s not a spoiler to say you will love the heartfelt end of this story!

Themes: On the subject of themes, I love the other thoughtful themes here that include grief, homelessness, poverty, compassion, bullying, kindness, depression, writing, and family. I love that Middle Grade lit addresses issues that kids might face in gentle and hopeful ways (because the middle-grade genre always infuses hope!). More of my MG favorites can be found here and here.

Writing and Reading: For literacy advocates, Isaiah Dunn has a strong, lovely, and compelling story line about writing, the power of words, reading, poetry, and libraries! Kids interested in writing will love Isaiah and this story!

Recommended: I’m highly recommending Isaiah Dunn for middle-grade readers and for adult readers who love middle-grade lit, for fans of poignant and inspiring stories, for those looking for more diversity in their reading, and for superheroes! This will definitely be added to my list of favorite middle grade reads.

***Trigger Warnings are always a bit “spoilerish.”***
Content Considerations/Trigger Warnings: grieving the loss of a parent, depression and drinking, bullying, homelessness and poverty. (all approached in gentle and light ways and appropriate for middle grade readers)

My Rating: 5 Stars


Isaiah Dunn Is My Hero by Kelly Baptist (cover) Image: the back view of a middle grade boy wearing a blue superhero cape and holding a pencil

Isaiah Dunn Is My Hero Information Here

Meet the Author, Kelly J. Baptist

Author Kelly BaptistKelly J. Baptist has been writing since…well, since she learned how to write! She won the 2015 We Need Diverse Books short story contest with The Beans and Rice Chronicles of Isaiah Dunn, which is included in the middle grade anthology, Flying Lessons and Other Stories. As a result of her work in an urban school district, Kelly felt compelled to continue Isaiah’s story. Isaiah Dunn Is My Hero is her debut middle grade novel. Kelly has also written a picture book, The Electric Slide and Kai, which is set for publication in the spring of 2021. When she’s not actually writing, Kelly is usually thinking about new story ideas…and dreaming of palm trees while living in Southwest Michigan. Kelly works as a middle school Social Emotional Learning Interventionist, is a Hamline MFAC student, and keeps beyond busy with her five amazing children, who always give her plenty of story ideas and background noise to write to.


Is Isaiah Dunn Is My Hero on your TBR or have you read it?

Do you love an occasional Middle Grade read?

What is your favorite reason for reading Middle Grade?

Happy Reading Book Buddies!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

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~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text

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Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

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  1. I really love the sound of this book. I lost my dad when I was only 8 and my brother was 1. I spent a lot of time with him over the years. As I look back, my mom was a rock for us (there were 5 of us), but I can see how things could have been very different. I want to read this one and am checking my library today. There are heroes everywhere and they don’t have to play sports! Great review Carol.

    • Thanks for the shout out Carla! I’m thrilled you enjoyed this special story! (Sorry if this is a duplicate comment….I responded using my phone this afternoon but now that I’m home I don’t see a comment).

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