Isaiah Dunn Is My Hero
By Barbara Saunders,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Boy adjusts to father's death in bittersweet tale.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Offers a great introduction to the writing process, including writer's block, creative collaboration, submitting work to contests, and the way that different writers (for example, Langston Hughes and Shel Silverstein) use words and language. There's a sympathetic, realistic depiction of a family that loses their home and lives in a hotel. Several examples of entrepreneurial thinking in ways that even the youngest readers can understand.
There are kind people in the world who will lift you up. Your gifts and talents can help you overcome challenges.
Positive Role Models
Diverse portrayals of adults stepping up to support children and other adults. A neighbor gives shelter to an unhoused family and supports a woman to go into treatment for alcohol dependency. A school librarian promotes an ambitious community project proposed by a child. A school principal and counselor operate a peer counseling program to help children move past conflicts and get along better. A business owner creates a job for a boy who needs both money and a role model.
Violence & Scariness
The subject matter may upset some readers. But the book captures a 10-year-old's perspective on issues that many young people deal with in their lives: parental death, losing a home, addiction, and bullying at school or in their neighborhoods. A boy shoves a girl who teases him. Older, bigger boys intimidate younger, smaller ones. An adult character drives while drunk.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Products & Purchases
There are a few mentions of brands, including PlayStation, Doritos, and Star Wars.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
An adult character drives while drunk.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Isaiah Dunn Is My Hero by Kelly J. Baptist is about 10-year-old Isaiah, whose family struggles to regroup after the father dies suddenly. His dad was a writer who left behind a notebook that Isaiah reads for comfort. In his father's stories, Isaiah is cast as a hero. Overwhelmed by grief, Isaiah's mother loses her job and develops an alcohol dependency, and the family is evicted from their apartment. Isaiah tries to hide the fact that he's unhoused from his friends and teachers. In the hopes of providing his family with a new home, he undertakes various entrepreneurial projects, such as selling contraband candy and renditions of his poems. The book's subject matter may be upsetting to some readers. But it deftly captures a 10-year-old's perspective on issues that many young people deal with in their lives.
Where to Read
There aren't any parent reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.
What's the Story?
When ISAIAH DUNN IS MY HERO begins, 10-year-old Isaiah's father, a writer, has died, and Isaiah, his mother, and his 4-year-old sister have moved out of their apartment and into a rundown motel Isaiah dubs the "Smoky Inn." Isaiah hides his new living situation from his friends and teachers. In the hopes of getting money to get a new apartment, Isaiah joins his friend Sneaky in selling candy at school. He also enters one of his late father's stories in a contest. Isaiah's table mate in school taunts him into behavior that gets him in trouble. And his mom is drinking: She shows up drunk in public places and drives while intoxicated, and Isaiah finds empty bottles all over their hotel room.
Is It Any Good?
This is a poignant, beautiful story of a family facing crisis with the help of a supportive community. Isaiah Dunn Is My Hero is Kelly J. Baptist's debut novel, based on a character she created for an award-winning short story. Baptist is very skillful in presenting topics the way a 10-year-old would perceive them. Specifically, Isaiah's mother falls into complicated grief and develops a drinking problem. And Isaiah's responses as he cares for his younger sister, discovers empty liquor bottles, and fields collections calls accurately reflect the confusion a child that age would experience in that situation. The way the boy connects to his late father through their common love of writing is both inventive and believable.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the theme of losing a loved one in Isaiah Dunn Is My Hero. Have you ever lost a beloved person or pet? What helped -- and what didn't?
Kids: Who are the people in your life that you can turn to for help?
Do you have a special talent? What is it, and what are some different ways you can use it?
Do you consider Isaiah a role model? What character strengths does he demonstrate?
- Author: Kelly J. Baptist
- Genre: Coming of Age
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, Middle School
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
- Publication date: August 18, 2020
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 208
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (abridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Awards: Caldecott Medal and Honors, Common Sense Media Award
- Last updated: August 2, 2021
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
Suggest an Update
Where to Read
Our Editors Recommend
Books About Grief
Books About Moms
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.See how we rate