For Ages
8 to 10

Isaiah Dunn Saves the Day is a part of the Isaiah Dunn collection.

Starting middle school is no joke! Friendship, community, and a love of words blend in this sequel to the award-winning Isaiah Dunn Is My Hero.

Things are looking up for super kid Isaiah Dunn. He and his little sister, Charlie, are getting used to staying with Miz Rita, and Mama′s feeling better. Isaiah′s poetry business with Angel is taking off, and his best friend, Sneaky, always has a new hustle. Plus, Isaiah has his dad′s journals for a story or if he needs advice. . . .

Like maybe now, because starting middle school is hard. Especially when his mentee, Kobe, won′t stop making trouble. Isaiah knows something is up, but to get to the bottom of Kobe′s secret, he′ll have to rely on every hero he knows—including himself!

An Excerpt fromIsaiah Dunn Saves the Day

August 18

“?’Saiah? ’Saiah, are you awake?”

I’m thinking maybe if I keep my eyes shut and breathe nice and slow, Charlie will get the hint and stop whisper-screaming in my ear.

Nope! Doesn’t work! This is one of those times when I wonder why I ever asked for a little sister.


I groan and pull my blanket over my head.

“Char-lieee! I’m sleeping!”

“No, you’re not; I see your eyes!” Charlie giggles, her little hands yanking my blanket back down. “Isaiah, guess what!”

“What?” I finally say with a sigh.

“There’s only five days till my birthday! Five days till I’m five!”

Mama always says that Charlie’s too smart for her own good, and now that Charlie’s obsessed with the number five, I see what Mama means.

“Wow, Charlie, real nice,” I say, turning over.

“?’Saiah, you have to help me plan the party!” Charlie continues, tapping me on the back. “I want princesses and mermaids and Elmo.”

Really, Charlie?

“Mama will help you plan,” I tell her.

“But I want YOU!”

“I’ll do it later,” I mumble.

“Promise?” Charlie asks.


“When you wake up?”


“Okay. But I thought Sneaky said to meet him at nine o’clock,” Charlie says in this know-it-all voice. She’s got this annoying habit of spying on me and my best friend, Sneaky.

I sit up quick and check my watch. 8:51.

“See, you’re up! Now we can--”

“Later, Charlie!” I say, gently pushing her toward the door. She pouts, but she’ll be okay.

I make my bed up fast and throw on shorts and a T?shirt.

“See ya later, Inka,” I say to the mannequin in the room. For the past few months, me, Mama, and Charlie have been living with Miz Rita, who’s like a grandma to us. The room I’m staying in is Miz Rita’s sewing room. I was scared of the sewing mannequin at first, but once I named her Inka, she stopped bothering me. I even wrote a few stories about her, like Inka, The Secret Keeper. To stop Charlie from being scared of the mannequin, I told her that Inka would keep any secret she has. Now Charlie’s always busting in my room to whisper to Inka.

“Morning, Miz Rita,” I say, popping into the kitchen. One good thing about Miz Rita is that she always makes breakfast--really good breakfast. Today it’s biscuits, so I grab one to go.

“Morning, Isaiah. Where you off to so early?” Miz Rita asks.

“Gotta meet Sneaky at the playground,” I say, smearing grape jelly on my biscuit.

“You and Sneaky, huh?” Miz Rita chuckles. “Y’all make sure you stay out of trouble.”

“Miz Rita, we don’t get in trouble,” I say. It’s kinda true, I guess. You never know with Sneaky. He has a new business idea he wants to start today, and Sneaky don’t play when it comes to his businesses and his money.

“Is Mama here?” I ask.

“She had some errands to run,” Miz Rita says.

Mama’s been running a lot of errands lately, but I know it’s probably because she’s getting back on her feet. Pretty soon, we’re gonna have our own place again and things will be much better.

“Oh snap, I gotta go!” I say, looking at my watch. I grab a second biscuit and rush to the front door.

“I wanna come, too!” Charlie calls, trying to follow me.

“Not now, Charlie,” I say over my shoulder. As I close the door behind me, I hear Miz Rita saying some nice stuff to keep Charlie from crying. I kinda feel bad, but I’ll just read her a poem later.

“You late, bro,” Sneaky says when I get to the playground.

“My bad,” I say, even though it’s only a few minutes after nine. Like I said, Sneaky don’t play. He’s standing by a bench and has a couple of small coolers sitting on it. He launches right into his idea.

“Yo, so it’s too hot for candy, right? Check it out!”

Sneaky opens one of the coolers and there’s a rainbow of colors inside. Freeze pops.

“The other one has water bottles. Perfect for a hot day, right?”

“I guess,” I say. “But won’t they melt?”

“Yeah, eventually,” Sneaky says. “I put some ice in here, but we gotta sell them fast.”

Sneaky’s plan is to hit up all the playgrounds and parks that we can walk to--all the basketball courts, too.

“People be hot and thirsty and don’t feel like going all the way home, so that’s where we come in,” he explains.

“Nice,” I say. I grab one of the coolers and Sneaky grabs the other. We start at the playground by our building and sell eleven freeze pops in only a few minutes!

Sneaky pockets the dollars with a grin as we head to the basketball court around the block. At school, Sneaky’s the candy man; since they took out all the vending machines, kids got real desperate for Snickers, gummy worms, and everything else. I guess for the last few weeks of summer, he’s gonna be known as the freeze-pop man.

I don’t mind being Sneaky’s sidekick, but I got my own hustle, too. I’m a writer like my dad was, only he wrote stories and I do poems. Me and my friend Angel have a poetry business called @Dunn Poems. I come up with the poems, and she writes them real nice and pretty. Our business is on hold right now, though, cuz Angel’s in Georgia for the whole summer! No offense to Sneaky, but she needs to hurry up and come home so my business can be back in business.


August 19

Miz Rita’s apartment is aight, but my favorite place to be is the library. I used to sit in the same spot in the children’s section, right by a window. That’s where I would read Daddy’s gold notebook and do my homework while I waited for Mama to pick me up. Now I head straight for my brand-new spot, the Gary Dunn Writing Room.

The room is named after my dad, and it was my idea to create it in this storage room that used to be full of junk. Mr. Shephard, the coolest librarian ever, helped me get permission from all the important library people, and then lots of companies donated furniture and computers for the room. It’s nice and cozy, and my dad’s words are on the walls. I always come up with good poems whenever I’m in the GD room.

“Isaiah, what’s up, my man?” Mr. Shephard holds out a fist and I bump it with mine.

“Nothin’ much, Mr. S,” I say. “How’s the room?”

“Perfect as always,” Mr. Shephard says. “Pretty sure your spot’s open.”

“Cool,” I say. “See you around.”

“Hey, don’t forget the summer reading program,” Mr. Shephard reminds me. “Haven’t stamped your board in a while.”

“I gotcha, Mr. S,” I say. I tell him he can get that stamp ready cuz I’m almost done with The Crossover.

Mr. Shephard salutes me and continues shelving books.

Two other people are in the GD room when I walk in, but Mr. Shephard was right; my spot’s open. I always sit in a green beanbag in the corner. Daddy’s words are in a picture frame right above the beanbag: “A head held high means you see everything you’re supposed to!”

I drop my book bag on the floor and plop onto the beanbag. I always do the same thing when I come in here: read a few pages from Daddy’s notebook and then start writing a poem. I always trip out when I see the title of Daddy’s stories, The Beans and Rice Chronicles of Isaiah Dunn. When he was alive, Daddy wrote stories about a kid superhero named Isaiah Dunn, who got his powers from bowls of beans and rice. In the stories, Isaiah Dunn is always going on secret missions, solving mysteries, and saving everybody. In real life, beans and rice definitely don’t give me powers. I’ve eaten enough bowls this year to last me for forever!

After I read about superhero Isaiah stopping a fight, I get out my own gold notebook and pen and start writing.


Why fight?

Just be a friend.

That's a battle

That everyone wins.


I write a poem about how hot it is in the summer and one about library smells. The man sitting at one of the computer stations is typing away, and the kid in one of the yellow beanbags is reading a real big book. It’s quiet in here, but all our words are saying a lot.

Daddy would really love this room.

What he would not love is the kid who comes into the GD room all loud, kicking one of the beanbags and complaining, “Don’t nobody even wanna be here for the stupid story time!”

“Story time’s out there, buddy,” says the guy at the computer.

The kid, who has braids and is super short, sucks his teeth and glares at the guy. He picks a few books but doesn’t open them, just tosses them on the shelf--and NOT neatly. After mumbling something about hating the library, the kid finally stomps off and the room is peaceful again.

On my way out, I fix the books that the kid left. When I find Mr. Shephard, we gotta talk about who’s allowed in the GD room and who should stay a million miles away.


August 22

“You ever think about cutting hair, Isaiah?”

I’m at New Growth, the barbershop owned by my guy Rock, and his question makes me laugh.

“Nah,” I say. “That’s for you, not me.”

“You never know,” Rock says. It’s Tuesday, which means the shop is slow, and Rock gets all deep and talkative. “People always need their hair cut; it’s a nice little hustle.”

“I already got a hustle, remember?” I hold up my notebook and pen.

“Yeah, you right,” Rock says. “Just was thinking that we spend all this time together, might as well show you a few things.”

“A few things like what?”

“Like what to do with these!” Rock says, holding up a pair of his clippers. When I think about it, Rock’s clippers are like his beans and rice; they give him superpowers! Rock laughs when I tell him that.

“I guess you right, man,” he says. “I definitely had to use my powers on that last guy; his hairline was no joke!”

“I’m gonna write a poem about how you hooked him up,” I say, thinking about the man’s hair. He came in with a short Afro that was flat on one side, and his hairline was pretty far back. When he left, his hair was all even and his edge?up was crispy.


This barber's a hero

With clippers in his hand.

A comb in the other,

And he's ready to jam!

Your hair might be bad

When you step in the shop,

But just put on the cape

And get ready to ROCK!


“You got a real gift, li’l man,” Rock tells me. “Once you figure out what to do with it, you gonna do great things.”

“I already know what I’m doing,” I say. “@Dunn Poems.”

Rock grins like he’s got a secret.

“That’s only scratching the surface, ’Saiah,” he tells me. “Tip of the iceberg!”

Rock gets another customer so I don’t get to ask him exactly what he means about the poem stuff. I stay busy sweeping up the hair after each person and making sure everything stays neat and tidy. I normally work at the shop on Tuesdays and Thursdays after school, but since it’s summer, Rock said I can come by any day, even if it’s just to chill or write.

Once things slow down a little, Rock shows me how to clean the clippers.

“I think this is gonna be one of your jobs, too, li’l man,” he says, “once you get the hang of it. Safety’s important, you know.”

I nod, making sure I’m careful as I spray the pair of clippers Rock hands me. I wipe down the sides and brush all the hair from the blades.

“Good,” Rock says. He checks his watch. “Alright, enough work, Isaiah. Time to enjoy all the sunshine out there.”

I’m putting my notebook and pen in my backpack when Rock snaps his fingers.

“Almost forgot! Stay right there, I got something for you, li’l man.”

Rock goes to the back where his office is and comes out a few minutes later with a bike.

“This is for you,” he says, wheeling the bike over. “Nothing like exploring the city in the summer!”

The bike is black and gold like my notebook, and it has gold pegs so Sneaky can ride on the back. It still has the store tag on it, so I know it’s brand new.

“This is for me? For real?”

“Yeah, for real!” Rock laughs. “Now you can ride to work in style.”

“Thanks!” I say. I’m real excited about the bike, but it also makes me think about my last bike, the one Daddy gave me when I turned nine. I know I’m too big for it now, but I wonder if it’s still in storage with the rest of our stuff.

Rock cuts off the tag and hands me a shiny black Mohawk helmet. “Here you go; let’s see what it do!”

I get on the bike right there in the shop and push off. Rock swats my arm.

“Out there, li’l man!” he says. He opens the barbershop door, and I ride out onto the sidewalk.

It’s hot, but I don’t really mind. I ride down to the corner and come back. Rock’s standing outside the barbershop, grinning just like my dad was when I rode the bike he got me. I swallow hard and grin back to make sure I stay sunny.

“There you go, Isaiah!” Rock calls. “It’s a smooth ride, ain’t it?”

“Yeah,” I say. When I stop in front of the shop, I notice Rock’s eyes shift to the right and he frowns a little.

“Ain’t that your homeboy’s brother?”

I turn to watch what Rock sees coming down the street. It’s Sneaky’s brother, Antwan, and two other guys.

“Yeah, that’s Antwan,” I say.

Rock shakes his head and sighs. “That boy needs to turn it around--quick.”

I know exactly what Rock means. Antwan’s fifteen, but he acts like he’s grown already. I don’t know what happened when he started high school, but he’s a whole different person from two years ago.

“Yo, w’sup, ’Saiah,” Antwan says, nodding toward me.

“Hey, Antwan,” I say.

“Nice wheels,” Antwan says, looking at my bike.

“Thanks,” I say. “Rock gave it to me.”

Antwan nods at Rock, too, but doesn’t say anything.

“Looks like you could use a cut, youngblood,” Rock says.

“Nah, I’m good,” Antwan says.

“Aight, well, I’m here when you ready,” Rock tells him.

“Yeah, aight,” Antwan says. His friends tell him they gotta go, and they all keep walking. Both me and Rock watch him, and I’m hoping he’ll turn around and come back, hang out in the shop, and let Rock cut his hair.

Under the Cover