Discussion Guide: King and the Dragonflies, by Kacen Callender

1) King believes his brother has become a dragonfly. What characteristics of dragonflies made our author chose them? What do they symbolize?

______________________________________________________________________________(dragonflies in this story are nearly angelic. They are dainty, beautiful, winged creatures that represent transformation and self-realization)

2) In chapter one, there is a tense exchange between Mikey Sanders and King with an unexpected outcome. Why is Mikey motivated to extend his condolences to King?

______________________________________________________________________________(Perhaps it is true that no one is all good or all bad; we are all in the process of becoming someone. Mikey may have been at odds with King’s brother, but never wished him dead.  Also, Mikey knows that his own brother is friends with King)

3) At school, 12-year-old King and his classmates begin to hint about crushes they experience. Then the gossip mill starts about Sandy coming out as gay. What challenge does this pose?

(Eager for their own individuality, these students inadvertently added pressure to their peers at a time when identities are still being formed. Shining a spotlight on this formation might make it harder for some to feel respected in their journey.)

4) Why does King keep a notebook of things his brother has said in his asleep?

(King and Khalid shared a bed and had no other siblings, so King really feels a bond with him. Khalid would occasionally utter something profound in his sleep, like “You’re going to be fine” and “I love you, King”. These sayings caused King to be intrigued and comforted.)

5) King shares his secret with Sandy that Khalid is now a dragonfly. Why is Sandy so non-reactive?

(Sandy understands loss – his mother ran off. He explains to King that no one’s ever really gone. This is his way of comforting and accepting King in his moment of grief.)

6) In his sleep Khalid would say, “Everything happens all at once.” What did this mean to King?

(Some of life’s most real moments are outside of time – or at least feel that way.)

7) What does Mardi Gras represent in this story?

(This is the first celebration they’ve dared to celebrate since Khalid’s death. It represents a celebration of life and joy. King worries that it is a betrayal to Khalid to experience this joy.)

8) Auntie Idris is unusually intuitive and compassionate. How does she help King with his grief?

(She bridges the gap between King and his grieving parents. After losing her own father in Hurricane Katrina, she understands the family’s sorrow. “The Spirits of this world don’t stay dead long.”)

9) King explains to his father that being black and being gay is the same sort of hate. Is it possible that this comparison is both accurate and conflicting at the same time?

(Each person will have their own answer to this question.)

10) What did it tell us about Khalid that he didn’t want people to think King was gay?

(Khalid was trying to protect King from others who would judge him unfairly.)