When Jaxon is sent to spend the day with a mean old lady his mother calls Ma, he finds out she's not his grandmother--but she is a witch! She needs his help delivering baby dragons to a magical world where they'll be safe. There are two rules when it comes to the dragons: don't let them out of the bag, and don't feed them anything sweet. Before he knows it, Jax and his friends Vikram and Kavita have broken both rules! Will Jax get the baby dragons delivered safe and sound? Or will they be lost in Brooklyn forever?
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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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Dragons, dinosaurs, parallel dimensions, and Ma Jaxon is trying to be brave and helpful for his mother, who’s having a really bad day. Their landlord is trying to evict them, she has to be in court, and an old lady that Jaxon’s never met, who is supposedly his grandma, makes his momma beg. It’s not a great beginning, but Ma finally lets Jaxon in. It’s not quite the visit Jax was expecting: Ma is NOT his grandmother, a mysterious box is moving itself around, and the squirrel knocking on the window would like to have a word. Actually the squirrel would like Jax to feed whatever is in the box. Ma is a witch, dragon babies imprint on whoever feeds them, and sugar is not a good idea for dragon food. When Ma, impressed by Jax’s knowledge, love of books, and his desire to learn, recruits him to help her take the dragons to the world where they’ll be safe, things get complicated. He’s about to meet family he never knew he had, dragons his friend’s little sister should not have let out of the box, and some very hungry predators. Dragons in a Bag is a fun adventure story with a lot of good life lessons about the meaning of family, and the value friendship, bravery, perseverance, and more. There are also conversations starters for conservationism, environmentalism, imagination, open-mindedness, and forgiveness. Quite a fun romp. Highly recommended for children who love adventure, mysteries, magic, and mayhem. I hope this is a start to a series! I received this book as a digital Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) from the publisher through NetGalley. My opinions are my own.
(I would like to thank NetGalley, Random House Children's, and Zetta Elliot for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review). A cute children's urban fantasy novel about a boy named Jax who has to stay with Ma when his Mama needs to go to court for the day to try to keep their home. He learns that Ma isn't exactly related to him (she's not his grandma), but she has taken care of many children in the past, including his own mother. There's something strange and...magical...about Ma. When Jax finds out that she is a witch, he seems to take the information in stride, and more and more strange magical things begin to happen around him, including the appearance of magical creatures, such as dragons. This is a very fun and quick read. One of the only qualms I have about it is that I wish the dragons were physically discovered sooner and that more was done with the dragons, because that is one of the appeals that drew me into the book. Anything with dragons, and I'll read it in a heartbeat! That aside, I really liked how this book features an intelligent young boy and the reader is given little mini history and geography lessons throughout the book as explained by various characters for different purposes. When the dragons do finally make their appearance, they are pretty cute and somewhat unique in themselves as well, which I liked. I do want to know more, for sure, and the book leaves a few open plot lines for a definite sequel. After you read the story, it will be pretty obvious what Jax's next adventure is going to be. One of the other nice touches about this book was that there was at least one illustration with every chapter, something that books seem to disregard as they become geared for older readers. There's no such thing as too old to add images to a book! Overall, I really enjoyed this book and, while it is more of a children's book, I wouldn't mind having this book on my classroom shelf for middle school students to access, or even some of my high school students who might struggle with reading or be at a lower reading level. This book would be very fun for those students, and anyone who wants a quick, easy, and exciting read...with dragons, of course!
Right off the bat this story gave me a different world than I found in my fantasy growing up. Jax and his mother are in danger of being homeless – the landlord wants to evict them – and the helper-figure Jax’s mother has chosen isn’t interested in Jax. The world these characters inhabit does not welcome them, and that is the setting for all the fantastic that is to take place. For Jax and Ma, both, the lack of welcome doesn't change who they are, and as we watch we learn more about them, and the space they make for themselves where they go. One thing that struck me over the whole of this book was how there was no blaming. People made decisions that disappointed other people, even changed their lives as a result, but there was no labeling anyone *bad*. This caught me both for this genre and the target age group, as many authors are very aware of their readers forming their “moral codes” and help their readers choose sides. I believe this author is just as aware of formation, and as part of that awareness spent a lot of energy framing “both sides” and explaining, even showing, how people who disagree, people who make very different decisions, can remain on good terms. Even when they don’t (one character chose to separate herself), those who miss her understand why she made that choice. I loved that Jax was a geography nut. I also loved that he knew when he’d reached the end of his knowledge and who to call for help. My 12-year-old started this book before I did, and burned through it until he got to the part [spoiler!] when Jax meets a strange old man. The man shows up when the friend of a friend says he will, and by that the reader is supposed to understand the man is trustworthy, but the sequence made my son uneasy I haven’t been able to talk him into taking it up again. There is a potential safety issue with Jax leaving with a stranger, someone who wasn't personally introduced by a trusted character. The interpersonal safety remained consistently high through the book, but if I was reading this with a younger child I would use this situation to point out how we sometimes do things differently than in stories. There are a number of characters introduced who seem to still be in a setting-up portion of their character arc, and there are hints that do not play out before the end of the story, so it feels a tiny bit cliffhanger-y, but there is also a sense of quiet wrapping up and coming in for a landing. I recommend this book. It had unique, appealing characters that I hope to get to know better in future adventures. (Thanks to the publisher and Net Galley for the digital review copy.)