The Box and the Dragonfly: The Keepers, Book 1

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
The Box and the Dragonfly: The Keepers, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Twisty brainteaser of a fantasy is a keeper.

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 3 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Horace briefly discusses the theory of relativity and time travel with his teacher. This magic world of Keepers, with their objects that give them special abilities, is involved enough to require a glossary of terms in the back. 

Positive Messages

Self-discovery as a vital method in learning is stressed here. Bravery and loyalty to friends also are very important. Something very easy to see when you have a box that can see into the future: All our actions are related and have consequences, but it's not all determined for us; we still have free will.

Positive Role Models & Representations

A wonderful friendship blooms between two very different 12-year-olds. Horace loves science and chess and thinks through everything before he acts. Chloe goes by instinct most of the time, depending on her physical skill and bravery. However, sometimes Chloe is so determined that she's going to do everything herself that she gets into danger.


An impossibly large, gangly man smelling of brimstone -- high creepy factor -- is in constant pursuit of Horace and Chloe. A couple of golems (manifested as a giant mass of moving rock) chase and attack Horace and friends. A fire consumes a home, and Chloe describes feeling the pain of it around her, even though her ability can keep her from getting hurt by it. A few people are kidnapped, and there's talk of taking away what they hold most dear. A climactic fight includes a near-choking and some punches. A character loses hope and all sense of self when an important object is taken away.


"Hell," "damn," and "dammit" used infrequently.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Talk of Chloe's father being a heavy drinker who let everything in his life go.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Box and the Dragonfly is the first in the Keepers fantasy series about a boy who discovers a magical object with special powers meant only for him and becomes a Keeper. Bad guys want the object -- specifically, a very creepy, impossibly large man smelling of brimstone who's always in pursuit. Plenty of readers will get spooked by him. There's also a house fire, some kidnappings, and fights with golems made of moving rock. When a Keeper's object is stolen, he or she loses hope and almost all sense of self. Horace, who's very bright and careful, and his brave and determined friend Chloe make a loyal team worth rooting for. Book 2 in the series, The Harp and the Ravenine, comes out March 1, 2016.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent Written byAmanda K. February 6, 2018

disappointing dialogue

It's disappointing that such a creative and well thought out story has such unimaginative exclamations.

It breaks my heart every time the Lord's name... Continue reading
Parent Written byJodie A. May 18, 2018

Smart book for smart kids

Not only does this book have gripping action, entertaining characters, and a wonderfully creepy bad guy, it is really well written and does not pander to or tal... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byMila Mani March 12, 2019

Fantastic fantasy will leave you in awe

This book and the following three in the series are well written and exciting, and, at times, profound. The main characters, Horace and Chloe, are 12-year-olds... Continue reading
Kid, 9 years old August 13, 2018

Not that good

The story is not that good and it's fairly scary, I stopped reading.

What's the story?

On the bus on his way home from school, Horace can't help noticing a sign with his name on it: Horace F. Andrews. How odd. When he hops off the bus to take a closer look, a strange, thin man follows him. He instinctively runs away and happens upon an alley with the sign "House of Answers." That must have been what he saw. After he answers a riddle to get in, it just gets weirder. A hallway filled with birdcages and a room with many crazy objects labeled in even crazier ways ("Oblong," "Unsavory," "Misplaced") awaits him. A woman tells him to sign in and come back the next day. He gets to choose an object and picks a box he can see through. He's not sure what he's seeing but is too intrigued to part with it. At night the experiments begin as he tries to find out what powers the box holds. Little does he know that he's become a Keeper of one of the most powerful and rare objects around. It leads him to a new friend, Chloe, a Keeper with very different powers, and a whole world of Wardens trying to keep creatures like the impossibly thin man away.

Is it any good?

Here's hoping this book finds a large audience; it's a great find for readers who love to puzzle out the twists and turns of a story. Author Ted Sanders is about 10 frustrating steps ahead, no matter how bright you are, and it's all thanks to Horace's ingenious little box. The climax of the story takes up almost the last 100 pages, because readers see through Horace's box a possible outcome a whole day ahead of the main action. From there you'll spend almost as much time speed-reading as you spend pondering, "Well, if this happens, then this has to happen, but what if ... ?"

At 544 pages, it's a long haul, but it's entertaining most of the way. The time spent developing Horace and Chloe's friendship is definitely worth it. They're a great pair worth rooting for. Sometimes the adults -- such as Mr. Meister -- seem to string out the mystery way longer than needed. Kids are not always patient, especially when adults hold out on the truth. Then the cliffhanger comes on the very last page, guaranteeing that the next book will be another amazing find.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what you would do with Horace's box. How long do you think it would take you to find out what it does?

  • How does this book compare with other fantasy stories you've read? Are you anxious for the next book in the series?

  • Would you rather have the box or the dragonfly? What do you think would be a good match for your personality and gifts?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fantasy

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

Top advice and articles

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate