Books we are loving – May 2021

The Dragon Thief by Zetta Elliott

The sequel to Dragons in a Bag, The Dragon Thief begins with Kavita trying and failing at the first hurdle to look after the baby Dragon, Mo, whom she smuggled away from Jaxon’s bag in the first book.  Kavita was sure Mo needed her, but now the baby dragon’s growing and she is realising she is not prepared for the responsibility, as the rest of the plot proves.  Lucky for Kavita, her mischievous aunty is prepared to help.

Set in modern day Brooklyn, The Dragon Thief explores the ideas of magic, responsibility, slavery, misfortune and many other themes through the different lenses of the characters, though no theme is explored deeply.  Personally, I would have preferred an in-depth exploration of a couple of themes over surface exploration of so many themes, but families with the first inklings of philosophical interest may find the questions posed in The Dragon Thief good talking points.

My children were both hoping this second book would feature more of Kavita’s point of view, as is so for the first few chapters, but most of the chapters are written from Jaxon’s point of view as in the first book.  This second book sees most of the adults from the first book trapped in the realm of magic or deeply asleep here in the real world.  For me, that was the saving grace of this book. Jaxon must complete his mission without adult support, but he knows he can’t do it alone.  We see more of his friend Vikram, Kavita’s brother, in this book.  We also meet Kenny, the intimidating kid from school who’s really just insecure about his size and his Dyslexia.  Jaxon relies on his crew to see his mission through to the end and that’s a message I’m happy to share with my children.

The Ramona Collection by Beverly Cleary

Ramona Quimby is a worthy hero for any young girl.  She has no special powers and she doesn’t always get things right, but she’s quick, feisty, funny and so lovable.  Ramona’s life is like a guidebook for young girls.  There will be new adventures filled with frustrations, hurt feelings, betrayals, and setbacks but also kindness, growth, new family members and new best friends.  We are totally engrossed in Ramona’s life, rooting for her to win, feeling her pains and her elations.  We will be sad when our time with her finally ends (we’re on book six of eight *gulp*).

My grandmother read these books to my mother (well the first one).  My mother read them to me as my sister-in-law’s mother read them to her (the next six).  I know my little sisterhood had been waiting for the day my Miss Eight was ready to hear this story (we’ve been talking about it since birth).  Thank goodness there are so many books or I don’t know how I would have shared the joy around (though I think we all just wanted a good excuse to finally read the eighth book)!

Ramona has been on the scene since 1955.  And while she doesn’t own a mobile phone or deal with cyber bullying, the basics of grappling with other complicated social beings and social situations is a timeless theme.  The language is pitch-perfect for age 7ish.  The chapters are long because each one is like an episode of Ramona’s life, so don’t expect to sit down with this one for a ‘quick dip.’

A Cat Story by Ursula Murray Husted

A Cat Story is a story of layers – on the surface it’s a graphic novel about two cats on the islands of Malta who go in search of ‘the quiet garden’, an amazing place where they can make a home, that they have heard about as a story. A layer down from that though is the idea of ‘the quiet garden’ itself. What is that place? How do you really get there? And the base layer is in some ways – especially for home educators – the most interesting. Throughout the story, the cats move seamlessly through the history of art. They walk through paintings, and entire panels of the story take place within pieces of art. It is not chronological. The art is picked to be the most useful or relevant while helping to tell the story. At the back of the book are eight pages of art notes, which includes all the titles and artist of the works referenced throughout the story. With access to a library, a printer maybe, and Wikipedia you could get so much out of this book that it becomes an art appreciation curriculum of sorts. Definitely a book to strew, and see where it takes you.

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