A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
The Dragon Thief is mostly fantasy, but along the way there's a lot about the food and culture of India, as well as the fact that at one point in history Black people were captured and enslaved there too.
Strong messages here whether you're dealing with the world of magic or just the regular day-to-day: about courage, friendship, family, and doing all you can to make things right when you've messed up. Also about kindness, empathy, and the ability to see things from someone else's viewpoint, learn new things, and change your mind based on what you've learned.
Positive Role Models
Jaxon and his friends are smart, polite, serious-minded, and determined to make things right when they go wrong -- Jaxon to fix whatever's wrong with Ma, and Kavita to undo the damage she's caused by stealing the once-tiny dragon. They also befriend a much larger, older kid who's dealing with a lot of rage due to his parents' divorce and his own dyslexia, and that kid proves to be a good friend and a valuable ally. The villainous Blue is scorned for his greedy ways. Most of the adult characters -- magical and otherwise -- may be highly unusual but are usually kind, supportive, and there when they're needed. An adult character asks a kid to get her a beer and jokes that he drank it himself (which he didn't). Jaxon is African American, and Vik and Kavita are of Indian heritage. The story includes detail about enslaved people in India and the role they played in that country's history.
Violence & Scariness
A creepy character is covered with "tattoos" that are actually the magical beings he holds captive in his body. Villains hold Kavita and Aunty captive. Jaxon, still traumatized by his father's death, relives the now-viral street video in which his father is struck and killed by a car.
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Reference to "dog crap." Vik calls Kavita a "pain in the butt."
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Dragon Thief is the sequel to Zetta Elliott's Dragons in a Bag, continuing the adventures of 9-year-old Jaxon, his BFF Vikram, and Vik's younger sister, Kavita, who's caused a whole lot of trouble both in Brooklyn (where the kids live) and in the world of magic. Jaxon was supposed to deliver three baby dragons to the other world, but Kavita stole one because it was so cute. Now it's getting bigger and she knows stealing it was a really bad idea, and seeks help from her elderly auntie. As the kids and their friends struggle to put things right and get the dragon home, a creepy villain has plans of his own to get the dragon, and imprisons Kavita and her auntie. Along the way there are assorted magical beings and characters moving between the two worlds. Also lots of positive messages about kindness and inclusion (the much-feared big kid in the class turns out to be a valuable, kind-hearted ally), family and friendship. The story also includes detail about enslaved people in India and the role they played in that country's history. Hero Jaxon, who's Black, is still traumatized by his beloved father's death, which he recalls in one emotional scene. Their new friend Kenny is dealing with dyslexia and his parents' divorce. In one scene, an adult character asks a kid to get her a beer and jokes that he drank it himself.
Is It Any Good?
Thrills, heart, and Indian sweets are plentiful in this magical tale, where kids try to restore the balance between Brooklyn and the world of magic. It's been severely disrupted since Kavita, Vik's little sister, aka The Dragon Thief, kept a baby dragon as a pet instead of letting Jaxon return it to the world of magic in Book 1. Jaxon and Kavita take turns narrating their efforts to put things to rights, and Geneva B's plentiful illustrations bring the characters and their surroundings to life. Many things go wrong, perils are plentiful, but friendship, family, kindness and empathy carry the day. As does the attitude of hero and magical apprentice Jaxon, whose own quest seems to keep taking him to some pretty strange situations, and who's decided to just roll with it.
"A week ago, a talking pigeon would have freaked me out. But over the past few days, I've encountered a very determined squirrel, actual dinosaurs, a talking rat, and three baby dragons. I'm learning to take it all in stride.
"'Sorry,' I say to the pigeon. 'I guess I wasn't looking where I was going.'"
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