Dragons in a Bag, by Zetta Elliott, for Timeslip Tuesday

Dragons in a Bag, by Zetta Elliott (Random House, October 2018), is an urban fantasy for older elementary aged kids (8-10 ish years old, younger if they are a bookworm type kid, older if shorter books are more enjoyable) who are past Magic Treehouse but not yet at Harry Potter.  The main character is a black boy who gets to have a fantasy adventure in his home city of Brooklyn.  There are not many good diverse, urban books, and it's great that this one is out in the world!

Jaxon's mom needs to go to court to fight against them being evicted from their Brooklyn apartment, and so, in desperation, she takes him to the home of an old woman she calls Ma.  Naturally, Jaxon thinks this is the grandma he's never met, but that's not who Ma is.   Instead, she's a witch, who needs a helper with her magical work.  Today the job is to deliver a clutch of baby dragons to a magical world where they can thrive; Brooklyn lacks the requisite ambient magic.  They can't be let out of the bag, or they'll imprint on humans, and they can't eat anything sweet, or they'll grow....

Ma takes Jaxon with her to the portal to the magical world, and they cross through.  But something has gone wrong--they've travelled back in time to the age of dinosaurs!  And the dinosaurs aren't ready to be friends.  Jaxon, at Ma's command, escapes back to Brooklyn with the dragons, and now he has to figure out how to get them where they belong, and find help for Ma, still stuck in the past.

His friends Vikram and Kavita have some experience with magic of their own, as described in Elliott's earlier book, Phoenix on Barkley Street, but they don't know the baby dragon rules...and break them both.  Jaxon's problems keep escalating! Fortunately, help comes in the form of his mother's father, who he's never met before...and Jaxon learns that his own mother once had the chance to be part of the magic community herself!

It's a brisk adventure, with grown-ups to help along the way, as is fitting for this age group.  There's a nice balance of magic and real-world happenings, and I appreciated Jaxon's mother's choice not to get involved with magic--that refusal made the magic more real and weighty to me--something not to be entered into lightly.  The dragons get enough time out of their bag to be cute (although I would have liked to have seen even more of them!), and the dinosaur time-travel element makes it clear how much magic there is out there.  It's great for young readers, and a quick fun read for grownups!  Brooklyn kids will especially love it, since the setting will be so familiar to them.

As I said above, it's great to have a book like this--there really aren't many.  In fact, the only other diverse urban fantasy books for this age group that I can think of (you get more moving into middle grade territory of books for 9-12 year olds) are Zetta Elliott's earlier City Kids books (with links to my reviews where applicable)--the aforementioned Phoenix on Barkley Street, Dayshaun's Gift, The Ghosts in the Castle, and The Phantom Unicorn (which I haven't reviewed yet, so it's a goodreads link).  These earlier books were all self-published.  While it's great to see Dragons in a Bag being traditionally published, with all the greater reach that offers, and I'm really happy about this, I am a teensy bit huffy about people saying Dragons is something new and different, when the other books are all excellent too, but the commenters maybe just don't know about them...


  1. This sounds like a lot of fun. I can think of some kids who would really like it. Thanks for the review.

  2. Oh, this sounds wonderful! I read one of Zetta Elliott's earlier books, and I've been meaning to go back and try more by her.

  3. I have this one on suspended hold to read in January - although I'm not personally a fan of urban settings, this sounds like a great read! I'm looking forward to the dragons ;)


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