"Dragons in a Bag" by Zetta Elliott is the start of an interesting new series that deals with magic and magical creatures. Of course, anytime an author writes about magical realms filled with magical creatures, it seems impossible not to compare it to J.K. Rowling’s “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”, or even the entire Harry Potter series. But “Dragons in a Bag” comes across entirely as its own and I didn’t find myself comparing the two magical worlds.
After reading through the novel and Elliott’s acknowledgements, it’s clear that Elliott had a vision to create an inclusive fantasy series that displays an urban lifestyle with many characters of color. Elliott has done a fantastic job with this vision and each character is so real and flawed that all readers will be able to put themselves into this imaginative story.
Jaxon, a 9-year-old boy, gets roped into a magical adventure when his mother has no choice but to leave him with Ma, a trained witch! Not only is she a witch, but she’s also in charge of special deliveries…in this case, the special delivery of three baby dragons needing to be delivered back to their magical home. After Ma gets left behind in a pre-historic timeline, it’s up to Jaxon to rescue Ma and help deliver the baby dragons back to their proper realm.
Recommended Age Group?
The publisher’s recommended age group is 8-12. I agree with this recommendation. The novel is short and easy to read for this younger age group, and children will adore the main character, Jax. However, I would have liked to see a little more action in this novel, as a lot of time is spent on family matters. While this is important, especially to build a great starting point for the series, there were times I found myself asking which plot details I would have changed, which forced me to leave the story and imagine my own version. Of course, I am keeping in mind that this is the first book in a series and needs to accomplish more character-building. This novel does have adventure and conflict, and I can see children enjoying Jaxon’s story and wanting to read more.
There are many themes in this novel, some of the more blatant ones include: family relations, loss of loved ones, overcoming fear, and finding out what one is capable of in stressful situations. More subtly, there is a theme that revolves around the fear of the unknown. A large question that presents itself later in the novel is whether the creatures in the magical realm should be able to live in the non-magical realm. How would people react, and would the creatures be safe? This dilemma is compared to segregation, which opens doors for historical learning.
This novel is definitely classroom approved, as it offers learning experiences as well as a good story with well-developed characters. I look forward to reading the sequel and following Elliott in her new fantasy novel journey.
As always, I do promote pre-reading any novel you intend to teach, as each class is different and filled with different maturity levels.