A lot or a little?
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Dragons in a Bag is the first book in a series by Zetta Elliott. It's an exciting, funny, positive tale involving Jaxon, a studious, polite young 9-year-old whose father has recently died, whose mother is headed to court to keep their creepy landlord from evicting them, and who therefore gets left for "just one day" with a strange old lady his mother calls Ma -- who turns out to be a witch. She has a lot of interesting friends, mostly magical, and a task: Get three baby dragons, born in Madagascar, to the world of magic, because they won't thrive here. Jaxon and Ma face many perils trying, including large, fierce dinosaurs. Almost all the characters are African American (Jaxon's BFF and his little sister are Indian American, and one character is invisible), nuanced, relatable, and strong. This lively page-turner is great for anyone who likes believable, cheer-worthy heroes on a good adventure.
What's the story?
DRAGONS IN A BAG is the tale of 9-year-old Jaxon, who fights back tears as his mom leaves him -- just for the day, she says -- with a cranky old lady she calls "Ma," but who isn't her mom. It's a dire time: Jaxon's father has died and the landlord's trying to throw the grieving family out of their home. His mom has to go to court, and Jaxon is trying not to make her life harder, so he makes the best of it. There's a mysterious box on Ma's table, covered with stamps from Madagascar, which, it turns out, contains baby dragons who need to be transported to the magic world. And, as it also turns out, it's all in a day's work for Ma. She's a witch. Where Jaxon fits in -- that's up to him.
Is it any good?
This exciting adventure is full of engaging characters and lots of imagination. Dragons in a Bag launches the story of 9-year-old Brooklyn boy Jaxon, who discovers that the magical world has a job for him, if he wants to take it on and can deal with a strange old lady who's very definitely not his grandma. Created by author Zetta Elliott, who wanted to write a magical tale for Black kids who don't see people who look like them in fantasy stories, it continues in Book 2, The Dragon Thief. But here's where it all starts:
"'Your mama really didn't tell you nothin' 'bout me?' Ma asks finally.
"'No, ma'am,' I say truthfully.
"Ma grunts. 'You got nice manners, I'll give you that,' she says. Then she sighs and leans heavily on her cane -- so heavily I worry it might snap in two.
"'What you need to know, Jax, is ... I'm a witch.'"
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about stories about kids who are living normal lives in our world until suddenly the world of magic makes an appearance and changes their lives. How do you think Dragons in a Bag compares with other stories about this that you've read?
Do you know anyone who's had long-lost relatives turn up in their lives? What was the story? How did the reunion go?
Have you been to any African country, or do you know someone who has? What did you find most interesting? Which places appeal to you most? Would you like to spend more time there?
- Author: Zetta Elliott
- Illustrator: Geneva
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, Science and Nature
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Random House
- Publication date: October 23, 2018
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 160
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: September 27, 2021
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