Zetta Elliott’s Dragons in a Bag

Dragons in a Bag by Zetta ElliottIf 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 affects 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!

Sequel, please!!

Learn more about the author.

Alice Faye Duncan

Watch out for reviews of Alice Faye Duncan’s new and upcoming non-fiction children’s picture books next week on RaiseThemRighteous.com! Duncan’s work makes important contributions to children’s non-fiction by exploring American literary and political history. Her lyrical language transports even the youngest readers into the past, which is rendered rich in details that take unapologetic account of poverty and racism as well as hope and resistance.

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Order Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop.

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Pre-order A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks.

If you are not familiar with Duncan’s work learn more here.

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I want my words to be soul substance and a good time, mixed with a jolt of learning. — Alice Faye Duncan



Zetta Elliott’s Benny Doesn’t Like to Be Hugged

Benny Doesn't Like to Be HuggedBenny Doesn’t Like to Be Hugged (2017), written by the brilliant and prolific Zetta Elliott and richly illustrated by Purple Wong, is a sweet and accessible story about the relationship between a boy with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and his sister. At the end of the book, Elliott provides a detailed note about her investment in creating inclusive children’s books. She discusses wanting to write a book about autism with a Black male protagonist because society takes such a punitive stance on Black boys. The beautiful brown-skinned children Wong illustrates, as well as the diverse cast of characters both children interact with throughout the story, are wonderfully inclusive of different abilities, religions, and races. Benny Doesn’t Like to Be Hugged is a much needed text that celebrates difference and subtly shatters stereotypes while introducing a young autistic boy to readers through the eyes of his loyal and loving sister. Continue reading

Zetta Elliott’s Milo’s Museum

I love Zetta Elliott’s 2016 picture book Milo’s Museum. This book is clever, original, relatable, politically relevant, and sweet; in other words, everything I could want in a children’s book and a few things I need.

Purple Wong’s detailed and deeply meaningful illustrations complement Elliott’s story brilliantly. Wong adds multiple layers of significance by helping the reader see what the title character, Milo, experiences. Continue reading

#TBT Gwendolyn Brooks’ Bronzeville Boys and Girls

I was initially attracted to Gwendolyn Brooks’ collection of poems, Bronzeville Boys and Girls, because I enjoy the author’s work for adult audiences. I was not disappointed. Originally published in 1956, when depictions of African Americans in children’s literature were even more dismal than they are now, Brooks managed to create an assortment of poems that represent children and childhood complexly and with dignity and humor. She carefully walks the line between representing relatable emotions and experiences and refusing to abandon the specificity of the urban black community represented.

Continue reading