Bringing Back Kay-Kay by Dev Kothari

Bringing Back Kay-Kay – at a glance

The School Reading Lists’ five word review: Family, determination, pain, longing, character.
Children’s book title: Bringing Back Kay-Kay.
Children’s author: Dev Kothari.
Genre: Children’s fiction.
Published by: Walker Books.
ISBN: 9781529516043.
Recommended for children aged: 9-12 year-olds.
First published: Paperback April 2024.
This children’s book is ideal for: Children who enjoy immersive character-driven stories.

Bringing Back Kay-Kay by Dev Kothari

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Our review:

Lena’s brother Kay-Kay is the most important person in her life but she has quite enjoyed the time alone with her parents while he is at summer camp with his friends. When everyone else arrives back at Lamorna Station at the end of the holiday disaster strikes – Kay-Kay isn’t there!

The police question his friends and family but Lena can’t sit and do nothing so she starts asking her own questions and begins to suspect things aren’t quite as they seem. Kay-Kay is the perfect one, quietly studious, clever, friendly, everything their parents wanted while Lena is the opposite, fidgety, scatterbrained, and untidy. Without her brother, she knows her parents’ lives will never be as good again.

When the police decide Kay-Kay is just another teenage runaway Lena knows they are wrong and it’s down to her to prove it. As she travels Kay-Kay’s journey in reverse she finds small clues to help her along the way but it’s been almost two weeks since her brother disappeared, no one can survive that long, can they?

Bringing Back Kay-Kay by Dev Kothari banner

Our verdict:

This is a special book. A story about a missing boy and how his family, friends, and the local police all view things differently it also delves deeply into Lena’s hopes and dreams as she comes to terms with everything that is happening to her. The way she takes on the responsibility of bringing back the most important person in her life is full of tension and jeopardy until the very end. Written as a memoir of each step taken during her search almost everything is written from Lena’s point of view, her hopes, desperation, and, ultimately, the fear that she will be too late makes her both relatable and easy to champion.

The reasons for Kay-Kay’s disappearance gradually come to light and are as satisfyingly right as I hoped. The emotions explored, the feelings of inadequacy, some bullying, the worries, and ultimate relief, are all relatable even if the original reason for them, for most people, isn’t.

There are a lot of cultural references and mention of customs and different foods throughout which could be used in projects to help understand the differences and similarities between different groups. Kay-Kay also writes poetry about his life which Lena discovers and then refers to throughout. Some of it is quite abstract and could be used to spark conversation about what a poem actually is and whether they are easy to write and understand.

Teaching points and book club discussion ideas:

  • Bringing Back Kay-Kay is an excellent story which will draw students in and give them a platform to discuss how it isn’t always clear what problems people are dealing with privately. It also demonstrates that while everyone’s lives are similar in some ways they are totally different in others. In a PSHE setting the reasons why Kay-Kay might have disappeared could be discussed and also how those we trust or want to spend time with can sometimes let us down.

Many thanks to Walker Books for the review copy.

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If you like Bringing Back Kay-Kay by Dev Kothari you might also like: our reviews of A Drop of Golden Sun by Kate Saunders, The Final Year by Matt Goodfellow, illustrated by Joe Todd-Stanton, Secret Sister by Sophie McKenzie, Nowhere Island by Tania Unsworth and Ajay and the Jaipur Moon by Varsha Shah.

Browse our  Year 6 reading list and our Year 7 reading list.

About Tracy Wood

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I am a voracious reader and used to be a learning support assistant in a senior school for eight years before leaving to home school my now adult daughter. I have ten grandchildren who I love reading to and spending time with. Reviews by Tracy Wood