If you or someone you know is over eight-years-old, you need a copy of Zetta Elliott’s urban fantasy Dragons in a Bag!
Dragons in a Bag introduces readers to Jaxon, a sweet and smart young boy with brown skin and unruly eyebrows. Jaxon’s father passed away and he lives alone with his mother who is estranged from her family. At the start of the book, the mother-son duo struggle to make ends meet and their landlord is trying to evict them. When Jaxon’s mother goes to court to fight the eviction, she drops her son off at the home of a woman she calls Ma. Jaxon reasonably assumes the surly woman is his grandmother, but family isn’t that straight forward in Dragons in a Bag – neither is anything else!
Jaxon and Ma get off to a rough start, but his warm personality and keen intelligence soon win her over. The two spend their day sharing a fantastic fast-paced adventure, and Jaxon learns a lot about family, himself, and MAGIC!
As it turns out, Ma is a witch and she is hosting dragons in her bag (hence the title). Ma and Jaxon travel through a gentrifying Brooklyn as well as more fantastical places in an attempt to safely deliver the dragons to their magical destination. Along the way, readers are introduced to many intriguing characters and ideas.
Jaxon’s emotional maturity and self-awareness of his race and class position will prompt young readers to consider the effects of stereotypes. For instance, Jaxon is a geography wiz and when this surprises Ma he reflects: “People never expect a kid like me to know anything about anything. I’m used to it, but it still bothers me sometimes” (9). This, along with the author’s sustained engagement with social and economic issues affecting lower-income urban black and brown populations will engage older readers and help prompt meaningful classroom and/or family discussions.
I am a huge fan of books that treat kids with dignity and respect, and Dragons in a Bag does this beautifully. It also provides readers with ways of thinking about the many forms family and community can take. All the characters work together and support each other creating a complex web of care.
This book will make a wonderful addition to personal and classroom libraries. I recommend it for readers between 8 and 12, although, older readers, like myself, will surely delight in it too!