Jax is a nine-year old boy living in Brooklyn with his mother. He is a compliant kid. But when his mother drops him off at Ma’s place for the day while she goes to court to deal with their possible eviction, he is in for an adventure that will require him to assert himself, take unprecedented risks and show cunning and bravery. Ma, who is not a relative but did raise his mama, is about as friendly as an angry rattlesnake Initially, Jax is afraid of Ma, which gives way to anger, then couriosity. She reluctantly allows him to stay for the day, but hisses orders at him, trys to keep him away from her things and berates him for his potential eviction. A box sitting on a table is covered in postage from Madagascar and Jax observes it moving. Ma guards it carefully, but Jax spies her transferring its contents to a small mints container. Eventually, through sleuthing and disobeying Ma, Jax finds that, shockingly, there are lizard-like creatures in the tin, three of them. Ma reacts strongly to his snooping and Jax decides to bail, running out of Ma’s apartment only to have her follow him.
Their discussion becomes a turning point in their relationship. Ma takes some responsibility for her gruffness and confesses that she is a witch. Jax insists that she be more respectful and gains some insight into her actions. From here, the fantasy element of the story takes off. Ma lets Jax know that she has been assigned transport of the lizards, which are really dragons, to their magical destination. Jax, who now knows that his mother was offered the chance to be Ma’s applrentice when she was young but chose not to enter the magical life, decides to embrace the adventure. With the help of magical characters and a couple of friends, Jax enters the magical world of witchcraft to discover if it’s his destiny to be part of the magical realm.
Jax’s relationship with Ma evolves from rocky to loving through their adventures: transporting to a magical world, losing Ma, losing one of the dragons, finding them both and, in the process, finding his passion.
This is a great book for new fantasy readers as they wade into the genre, and would be a fun general fantasy story for third and fourth grade chapter book readers and reluctant readers in higher grades.
What I liked about this book:
Ma is the quintessential “hard on the outside, soft on the inside” character. It’s entertaining to witness the way in which Zetta Elliott artfully engineers Ma’s transformation through her relationship with Jax, a mere mortal and a young one, at that.
Variety makes this book spicy through these ingredients: a variety of cultures, characters that span a wide range of ages and even one character that is invisible!
Written by Zetta Elliott
Accelerated Reader Level: No test yet written, Reading level approx. 5.0
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