HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: The Dragon in the Ghetto Caper
Author and Illustrator: Elaine L. Konigsburg
Publisher: Aladdin, republished in 1998
Language level: 3 (taking the name of God in vain)
Reading level: for ages 9-12
Rating: 3 stars (FAIR)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Konigsburg, Elaine L. The Dragon in the Ghetto Caper (published in 1974 by Atheneum Publishers; republished in 1985 by Yearling Books, an imprint of Dell Publishing, a division of The Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group Inc., 666 Fifth Ave., New York City, NY 10103). Andrew Jackson Chronister is almost twelve and is in sixth grade at Emerson Country Day School. He lives with his father, mother, and soon to be married older sister in the Foxmeadow subdivision of Gainesboro. Andy likes to draw dragons, but his main goal is to be a famous, tough, and cool detective. However, he needs a sidekick. His new, zany neighbor, Edie Yakots, shares his love of dragons and wants to be his sidekick because she needs something to do all week while her husband is gone.
To get out of the house, Edie has tried the garden club but found that all the ladies want to do is talk rather than plant flowers. At first Andy helps her in her own garden but then joins her every Thursday afternoon when she drives an elderly woman, Sister Henderson whom she met while buying an old pew at the Mt. Zion Baptist Church rummage sale, so that she can visit friends and run errands in the ghetto where she lives. Andy has never been in the ghetto before. But one day, he sees a strange car following them and decides that someone is trying to rob Sister Henderson. His first crime! Can he solve the mystery? Or will he, Edie, and Sister Henderson get caught?
This is an interesting story, although at times it had a little trouble holding my attention. Konigsburg has also written Newbery Medal winners From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (1968), a Newbery Medal winner which I read and enjoyed, and The View from Saturday (1997), and the Newbery Honor book Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth (1968), neither of which I have read. The biggest problem for me was the annoyingly ubiquitous but profane exclamation “For God’s sake,” which appears on 38 of the 124 pages, sometimes used by the author in description and sometimes by Andy in conversation; Sister Henderson even chides him for it. There are a few euphemisms (including “darn” which is specifically said to be “a substitute for damn”). Andy is a little impertinent at times and at Mary Jane’s wedding party drinks enough champagne that he passes out. It seems at the end there is a little sympathy for the actual crooks, but they do get their punishment. The dragons are a symbol of the challenging parts of life. All in all, it is not a bad book, but I really didn’t care for it that much.