Due to some upcoming book clubs and discussions, I decided to read a popular children’s book which I suspect is on a few library summer reading lists this year, due to its themes of magic. (Reminder/Note: I am a children’s librarian. The national summer reading theme this year is “Imagine Your Story” which focuses on folklore, fantasy, and fairy tales.)
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Dragons in a Bag by Zetta Elliot is a magical story and so much fun to read. This book not only weaves a magical tale any reader will enjoy, but ensures that more children will see themselves represented in the fantasy genre.
The summary, from Amazon:
The dragon’s out of the bag in this diverse, young urban fantasy from an award-winning author!
When Jaxon is sent to spend the day with a mean old lady his mother calls Ma, he finds out she’s not his grandmother–but she is a witch! She needs his help delivering baby dragons to a magical world where they’ll be safe. There are two rules when it comes to the dragons: don’t let them out of the bag, and don’t feed them anything sweet. Before he knows it, Jax and his friends Vikram and Kavita have broken both rules! Will Jax get the baby dragons delivered safe and sound? Or will they be lost in Brooklyn forever?
AN NPR BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR
A CHICAGO PUBLIC LIBRARY BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR
A KIRKUS REVIEWS BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR
Dragons in a Bag is told from the point of view of Jax, a nine-year-old boy living in Brooklyn. Jax and his mother are facing eviction by their landlord. His mother has to go to court for the day, so she takes him to the apartment of a mysterious elderly woman, Ma, and asks her to watch Jax for the day. Jax assumes Ma is his grandmother, but she isn’t. It turns out Ma is a witch who knew her mother when she was younger. Ma has been sent dragons that she needs to return to the magical realm. Jax learns more about magic and helps Ma on her journey. We are also introduced to Jax’s friends, Vikram and his little sister Kavita. So far, this is a two book series, with Book 2 exploring Kavita’s adventures with magic.
Wow, what a lovely story! The fantasy adventure is whimsical but also an emotional journey for Jax. I especially loved the characters of Jax and Ma. What’s so great about Dragons in a Bag is that it’s a fun fantasy story that allows more children to see themselves represented in the genre. Every children’s modern fantasy novel I read growing up (so, not a fairy tale, but combining real world elements with magic) was about white British children. I love that this book features a cast of children (and adults) of color in an American urban setting. It’s also important that this book deals with real world topics in a sensitive way – for example, Jax and his mother’s housing insecurity.
Overall, this was a 5 star read. I’m so glad I was able to get an ebook copy from my library. This is definitely a middle grade read, but I think even younger readers (like first and second graders) could appreciate this as a read-aloud with a grown-up or older child.
What a lovely, fun read! I adored the characters, especially Jax and Ma. This book shows Jax’s adventures with Ma as he learns that magic is real, and journeys to return a group of dragons to the magical realm. I loved that this book shows children (and adults) of color engaging in a magical realm. So often books about magic for kids focus on white children. I also liked the tactful handling of some real world issues, specifically home insecurity, set against the backdrop of this fantastical tale!