EllRay Jakes the Dragon Slayer!

Book review by
Barbara Schultz, Common Sense Media
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Kids stand up to bullies in warm family story.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Author Sally Warner weaves into her story the explanation of several vocabulary words and concepts, including "pride," "character," "mortified" and what makes someone a bully. At school, third-grader EllRay writes a report about an important event, showing the steps needed to organize and write an essay.

Positive Messages

Though the children in EllRay Jakes the Dragon Slayer! aren't always geniuses at solving interpersonal problems, and not everyone will like EllRay's solution to Alfie's predicament, the story sends a message that bullying is hurtful and wrong, and that having personal pride should never come at the expense of others.

Positive Role Models & Representations

EllRay and Alfie's dad, Warren Jakes, is an educated, kind, devoted father who instills strong values of pride and honesty in his children. He's also a good listener who's willing to admit when he makes a mistake -- a great example for kids. The kids' working mom, Louise, is nurturing and sweet, but sets needed boundaries. EllRay is a capable boy -- evidenced by his sandwich-making skills -- which shows that his parents encourage a nice level of independence. EllRay also sets a good example of loyalty and caring of an older brother for his little sister when he tries to help Alfie stand up to a school bully. Also worth noting: Though this book does not address racial issues, the Jakeses are a strong, loving African-American family.

Violence & Scariness

In a rough, unsupervised playground game of "Extreme Dodge Ball," EllRay takes out his frustration with a mean kid by nailing him in the face with a rubber ball. The boy's glasses break, but he's otherwise OK.


There's meanness and name calling between kids. A fellow preschooler calls Alfie a "rabbit poop girl," and calls Alfie's favorite new jacket a "poop" jacket. Alfie gets angry at EllRay and says "S-word" to him. EllRay thinks she's cursing, but she explains that "S-word" means "Shut up."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that EllRay Jakes the Dragon Slayer!, the fourth book in Sally Warner's popular EllRay Jakes series, takes an age-appropriate, non-scary look at what constitutes bullying among young children, and how preschoolers and early graders react to bullying. In this case, preschoolers gang up on 4-year-old Alfie, EllRay's sister, and he tries to help her stand up to her classmates. There's a bit of violence when a rough game of dodge ball leads to a boy's classes breaking. Overall, the EllRay Jakes books offer a very positive look at problem solving within a warm, supportive African-American family.

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What's the story?

In ELLRAY JAKES THE DRAGON SLAYER!, Book 4 of Sally Warner's series, third-grader EllRay goes into his little sister, Alfie's, preschool to sign her out and observes a few girls being mean to Alfie. At home, EllRay is disturbed to see Alfie becoming increasingly sad; he learns that the other girls, led by a difficult child named Suzette, have decided to treat Alfie as if she's invisible. When EllRay's class is told to write an essay about an important event, EllRay writes about Alfie's predicament, and some other kids give him a hard time about his preoccupation with a 4-year-old. But EllRay's determined make the preschool bullying stop, even if Alfie won't stand up for herself.

Is it any good?

Warner's fourth EllRay Jakes book offers a relatable, non-scary view of bullying among very young children and shows how kids react to mean behavior. Adults are often surprised to learn how early bullying can start, but kids know that even at preschool, friends can turn on each other and gang up on other children. Kids will relate to Alfie and EllRay, learn about concepts of personal pride and character, and enjoy the illustrations by Brian Biggs. This is a caring story that shows a loving family, realistic kids, and the heartwarming loyalty 8-year-old EllRay feels for his little sister.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about whether EllRay did the right thing to help Alfie. What's the right way to help a friend who is being bullied?

  • Have you read other books in which kids are bullied? What did you learn from reading about bullying?

  • EllRay writes a school report about Alfie's problem. Try using EllRay's method to tell a story of your own. First answer the five questions about an event: What happened, when and where did it happen, what are some details, and how did it end?

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