Image: A young girl with brown skin and brown hair looks over her shoulder and smiles at the viewer. She holds a birdcage with a small purple dragon in it. Text: "The Dragon Thief. A sequel to Dragons in a Bag. Zetta Elliott."

KidLit Book Review: The Dragon Thief by Zetta Elliott and Geneva B


Synopsis

Jaxon had just one job—to return three baby dragons to the realm of magic. But when he got there, only two dragons were left in the bag. His best friend’s sister, Kavita, is a dragon thief!

Kavita only wanted what was best for the baby dragon. But now every time she feeds it, the dragon grows and grows! How can she possibly keep it secret? Even worse, stealing it has upset the balance between the worlds. The gates to the other realm have shut tight! Jaxon needs all the help he can get to find Kavita, outsmart a trickster named Blue, and return the baby dragon to its true home.


Details

  • Title: The Dragon Thief
  • Series: Dragons in a Bag, Book 2
  • Author: Zetta Elliott
  • Illustrator: Geneva B
  • Cover Artist: Geneva B
  • Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
  • ISBN: 1524770493
  • Publication Date: October 22, 2019
  • For Ages: 8-12
  • Category: Middle Grade
  • Spooky-Scary or Spooky-Fun? 🎃 Fun.

I’d like to thank Random House Books for Young Readers for providing a copy via NetGalley for review consideration.


Review

A week ago, a talking pigeon would have freaked me out. But over the past few days, I’ve encountered a very determined squirrel, actual dinosaurs, a talking rat, and three baby dragons. I’m learning to take it all in stride.

The Dragon Thief picks up right where Dragons in a Bag left off, with 9-year-old Brooklyn resident Jaxon searching the city for the missing dragon that he was supposed to return to the realm of magic in order to restore balance between our world and the world on the other side. The titular dragon thief is Kavita, little sister of Jaxon’s best friend Vik, who is doing her best to take care of the adorable magical creature she kinda-sorta-okay-definitely stole from Jaxon. Though we didn’t learn much about Kavita in the last book, alternating points of view between Jaxon and Kavita allow the reader to get to know her much better as a character. This narrative structure moves the plot forward briskly, keeping the reader inspired by the wonder of magic and eager to see what happens next. Just like the first book in the series, this entry is full of adventure, friendship, magical intrigue, and thoughtful sociopolitical commentary.

Author Zetta Elliott touches on some serious topics in a way that is both empathetic and matter-of-fact, facing hurtful issues with clarity and understanding. Kavita’s Aunty (who has some connection to the world of magic herself) belongs to the Siddi people, an Indian ethnic group descended from Africa. Aunty discusses colorism with Kavita as she talks about the different skin tones in their family and mentions a relative who uses bleaching cream. Aunty tells Kavita that her ancestors were slaves, and Kavita is shocked at the far-reaching history of the slave trade. Slavery is a subject that subtly permeates the whole story—just like in the first book, the magical elders imply that the reason for the imbalance in mystical energy between our world and the realm of magic is because of the physical and spiritual wreckage of colonialism and slavery. Though Kavita and Jaxon initially believe that returning the stolen dragon to the realm of magic will restore that balance, they soon learn that the problems run much deeper and are more complex than the fate of one small(ish) dragon.

Elliott also explores grief and how it interacts with the need to belong and to see yourself represented in the world. Jaxon’s dad died in a car accident (which Jaxon doesn’t think was all that accidental), and his yearning for that lost piece of himself is palpable in how tightly he clings to the family he finds through his magical adventures. Though we see slightly less of him in this story, with the points of view alternating between him and Kavita, Jaxon is still the same bright, sensitive, and brave boy that we met in Dragons in a Bag. It’s heartbreaking to see him struggle, but it’s an absolute joy to see him triumph.

Both Jaxon and Kavita provide a vital lens on themes of family, friendship, and forgiveness. They’re also just plain fun characters. The Dragon Thief has a lot to say on some serious subjects, but I don’t want you to leave this review without knowing how fun this book is. There are fairies, witches, talking animals, dragons with a taste for sweets, and magical portals to other worlds. It’s a quick read with plenty of surprises, and Elliott does a good job of catching up readers who may not have read the first book. Although the edition I read didn’t have the final art, I’m a big fan of Geneva B’s warm and playful illustrations, so I’m sure the interior art is just as charming as her beautiful cover. The Dragon Thief is a fun, hopeful book about believing in yourself, believing in magic, and facing the past so that you can work toward a better future. I hope that we have more adventures in the series to look forward to, because spending time with Jaxon and his friends is always magical.


Rating

Dragons on the subway! I give this book 4 out of 5 coffins.

4 Coffins


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