title: The Dragon Thief
author: Zetta Elliott
illustrator: Geneva B.
date: Random House; October 2019
main characters: Jaxon; Kavita Patel
In her typical fashion, Zetta Elliott uses Dragon Thief as a tool for building and uplifting communities. In this sequel to Dragons In A Bag, Kavita (Indian American) and Jaxon (African American) work in a parallel efforts to return the dragon Kavita took from Jaxon back to his home. Home, of course being a completely different dimension.
While cheering for Kavita and Jaxon to accomplish this task, we’re provided knowledge about the global implications of the African slave trade, particularly with respect to India. Elliott packs so much into this slight novel! While it’s not quite as action driven as the previous novel this sequel does still maintain a quick pace while delivering necessary messages about magic, community and belief in one’s self.
title: Nina Soni: Former Best Friend
author: Kashmira Sheth
illustrator: Jenn Kocsmiersky
date: PeachTree; October 2019
main character: Nina Soni
This review is based on an advance copy.
Nina Soni Former Best Friend is the first installment in a new middle grade series from Kashmira Sheth. Sheth develops a strong character who is quirky, not so reliable, curious and self-reflective to sustain the series. Nina is worried that she’s lost Jay as her best friend, that her little sister’s birthday party will be a disaster and that she won’t be able to complete her school project. She likes making lists as much as she enjoys understanding and using new words. Sheth adds definitions and lists throughout the book to ‘show’ and not ‘tell’ Nina’s personality. Nina’s busy figuring out the world, more than figuring out herself. She is (was?) glad to have Jay, an Indian American boy, as a close friend and appreciates without question elements of Indian culture. Former Best Friend is a good story about a girl who, like most of us isn’t quite perfect but is quite a good person.