Dragons in a Bag
by Elliott, Zetta; Geneva B. (ILT)






In Brooklyn, nine-year-old Jax joins Ma, a curmudgeonly witch who lives in his building, on a quest to deliver three baby dragons to a magical world, and along the way discovers his true calling.





Zetta Elliott was born in Canada and moved to the United States in 1994. Her poetry has been published in several anthologies, and her plays have been staged in New York and Chicago. Her essays have appeared in the Huffington Post, School Library Journal, and Publishers Weekly. She is the author of over twenty-five books for young readers, including the award-winning picture books Bird and Melena's Jubilee. She is also a contibutor to We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices, published by Crown Books for Young Readers. Elliott is an advocate for greater diversity and equity in publishing. A longtime resident of Brooklyn, she currently lives in Philadelphia. Learn more at zettaelliott.com.





Jaxon and his mom have been a team for as long as he can remember. When Jaxon's mother needs to deal with a crooked landlord trying to evict them, she takes Jaxon to Ma, the woman who raised her. Jaxon is surprised and scared-his mother is leaving him with a stranger? And it gets weirder: on her kitchen table lies a package with stamps from Madagascar all over it . . . and it moves. Jaxon is intrigued. Ma, who is a witch responsible for protecting magical creatures, invites Jaxon to take the package back to the magic place where it needs to be. Dragons, dinosaurs, an invisible man, and more await Jaxon as he discovers where his family comes from and where his grandfather has been. Readers will relate to Jaxon's city life, diverse friends, and family dynamic, and Elliott does a wonderful job of interweaving fantasy, adventure, and character relationships. The language is not too complex for new fantasy readers and speeds right along. A wonderful, and wonderfully inclusive, fantasy for any collection. Grades 2-4. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.





Nine-year-old Brooklynite Jaxon meets a witch, becomes her apprentice, and protects baby dragons all in one eventful day. As the story opens, Jaxon and his mom are being evicted. While Mama tries to secure a place to stay, she leaves him with Ma, the woman who raised her. Ma clearly doesn't want Jaxon around, but it becomes apparent that's at least partially due to a mysterious package she's received. Jax soon discovers that Ma's a witch, his mom used to be Ma's apprentice (a mantle he takes up), and that Ma's package contains…baby dragons! The dragons need to be taken to the magical realm, but a transport malfunction strands Ma while Jax is sent back to Brooklyn. Desperate to save Ma, Jax enlists the help of his friend Vikram, whose little sister, Kavita, tags along. Curious—or is it nosy?—Kavita discovers the dragons and does the worst: feeds them. This not only increases their size, but bonds them to her. Thankfully, Trub, Jax's maternal grandfather, is a magic user and helps Jax find Ma and get the dragons to the magical realm, where (discerning readers won't be surprised) they discover one dragon is missing….What a breath of fresh air: a chapter-book fantasy with an urban setting, an array of brown-skinned magic wielders, and a lovable black protagonist readers will root for and sympathize with. Geneva B's black-and-white illustrations depict a cast of color and appear every few pages. Good, solid fantasy fun. (Fantasy. 6-10) Copyright Kirkus 2018 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.





Mama strokes my cheek with her finger before pressing the doorbell. I feel tears pooling behind my eyes, but I will them not to fall. Mama has enough to worry about right now.

 

“It’s only for a little while, Jaxon. I’ll be back before you know it.”

 

I nod and look up at the peephole in the door. If I look down at my feet, the tears will fall and my nose will start to run and Mama will know I don’t want her to leave me here.

 

Mama’s biting her lip and tapping her toe nervously. She presses the doorbell again, letting it ring longer this time. We both hear someone stirring-and cursing-inside the apartment. Mama laughs nervously and says, “Ma curses like a sailor sometimes, but she’s a harmless old lady. She’s fun, too-you’ll like her, Jax.”

 

I never even knew I had a grandmother living in Brooklyn. Mama never mentioned her before. Sometimes Mama hides things from me-or that’s what I let her believe. Mama thinks I don’t know our landlord’s trying to get rid of us. She takes down the eviction notices he pins to our front door, but I still know what’s going on. Today Mama has to go to court. I want to go with her, but Mama wants to leave me here instead.

 

A heavy body shuffles toward the door. Mama and I wait patiently as at least three locks are turned. The chain stays on and lets the door open just a crack. I cringe as a raspy voice asks, “What you want?”

 

Mama smiles sweetly and places her palm against the door. She speaks slowly and politely. “It’s just us, Ma. I called this morning and told you we were coming. Remember?”

 

The woman behind the door barks at Mama, “Course I remember. You called and asked if you could leave the boy with me and I said NO!”

 

The sweet smile on Mama’s face doesn’t budge. If anything, it hardens. Mama tries to push the door open, but the chain’s still on and my mysterious grandmother doesn’t seem ready to move out of the way.

 

Mama puts her other hand on the doorframe and leans in so that the woman on the other side of the door can see and hear just how desperate she is. “It’s only for a few hours. Please, Ma. You’re all he has.”

 

I step back and wonder if that’s really true. I’m sure Vikram would let me stay at his house for a while. His parents like me and don’t mind having me around. Mrs. Patel calls me a good influence. That’s what the grown-ups who know me always say. But this mean lady won’t even open the door and give me a chance. If she doesn’t want me around, that’s fine by me.

 

But it’s not okay with Mama. She’s whispering to the woman behind the door, but her smile is gone now, and there are tears shining on her cheeks. I want to hold Mama’s hand, but instead I take another step back and hold on to the straps of my book bag. Mama’s saying one word over and over again: please.

 

I have never seen my mother beg anyone for anything. But it doesn’t work, because the door finally closes. Mama rests her forehead against it before wiping her eyes and turning to me. “Let’s go, Jax,” she says wearily.

 

I sigh with relief and take Mama’s hand. Just as we start to walk down the stairs, I hear the chain slide, and the door opens once more.

 

“One day. Give me your word, Alicia. One day.”

 

Mama says, “I promise, Ma.” Then she pulls me back over to my grandmother’s apartment. The door is open, but the lights are off and I can’t see anyone inside. Mama gives me a quick hug and pushes me through the doorway. Before I can ask her when she’ll be back, Mama rushes down the stairs and is gone.






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