Review of Dragons in a Bag

Dragons in a Bag
by Zetta Elliott; illus. by Geneva B
Primary, Intermediate    Random    154 pp.    g
10/18    978-1-5247-7045-7    $16.99
Library ed.  978-1-5247-7046-4    $19.99
e-book ed.  978-1-5247-7047-1    $10.99

There are two things you should never do when dealing with dragons. First, do not let them out of the bag; and second, do not feed them anything sticky and sweet. At the beginning of this likable and suspenseful chapter book, Jaxon (“Jax”) is dropped off by his mother at the home of a stranger: the old woman who raised her. It turns out that “Ma,” as the woman asks Jax to call her, is a witch who has just received a special package containing three dragons from Madagascar. Ma tells Jax that the dragons cannot stay in Brooklyn because there is not enough magic there to sustain them. “They came from one world, and they’re on their way to another.” The plot is engaging, with a number of unexpected twists and turns involving time travel, magic, and a host of interesting and vividly portrayed characters. Ma, for example, appears cantankerous and mean on the surface, but her actions toward Jax reveal her to be a compassionate and loving caregiver. Each chapter features one or two black-and-white cartoon illustrations depicting pivotal moments, objects, or people (e.g., Ambrose, one of Ma’s helpers, who is invisible except for his clothing). Considering the scarcity of African American middle-grade fantasy, this novel is a welcome addition. It ends with Jax headed out for another adventure related to one of the dragons, so readers can look forward to a second installment.

From the September/October 2018 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Jonda C. McNair

Jonda C. McNair
Jonda C. McNair is a professor of literacy education at Clemson University in South Carolina. She is a past chair of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards Committee and a member of the 2019 Randolph Caldecott Award Selection Committee.

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