When middle schooler Snapdragon’s dog goes missing, Snapdragon dares to enter the house of a reputed witch and finds the hound recuperating from an accident. The next day, encountering a dead opossum mother and her living babies, Snapdragon takes them back to the house for help. The purported witch, an older woman named Jacks who raced motorcycles in her youth, makes a deal with Snapdragon—Jacks will help Snapdragon care for the possums if Snapdragon helps Jacks with her work harvesting road kill, then cleaning and selling the articulated skeletons online. As the self-possessed girl develops an interest in vertebrate anatomy, she spends time in her trailer park home evolving a meaningful friendship with trans neighbor Lu, honing an interest in frightening tales, and navigating the fallout of her hardworking single mother’s most recent relationship. She also discovers that Jacks is deeply connected to her own family—and just might be an actual witch. In bright, dynamic art, Leyh packs Snapdragon’s world with an array of wonderful characters, full of quirks and contradictions, who represent a variety of ethnicities, sexualities, and gender expressions. Full of magic and humor, this intersectional, layered tale offers joyful and affirming depictions of social outsiders and comfortably complicated families. Ages 10–14. (Feb.)■
A School Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, and Parents Magazine Best Book of 2020
"Epic." Parents Magazine, from their 2020 Best Books for Teens list
"Snapdragon invigorates a classic hero's journey with magic and heart."The AV Club
"Full of magic and humor, this intersectional, layered tale offers joyful and affirming depictions of social outsiders and comfortably complicated families." Publisher's Weekly, Starred Review and a Publisher's Weekly Best of Book 2020
"Vibrant colors bring a lovable cast and more than a few spells to life." School Library Journal, fron their Best Books of 2020 list
"This endearingly offbeat story emphasizes found community, the importance of love and friendship, and a fierce commitment to individualityall powerful themes for middle-grade readers." Booklist, starred review
"Sweet and fierce, this is a must-have." Kirkus, Starred Review
"Leyh skillfully balances magic and realism...readers familiar with Leyh’s work in the Lumberjanes series will recognize her bouncy, dynamic art and figures that are nearly always in motion, keeping the energy high and the tone lively."The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
“Snapdragon is a unique and perfect story about a witch in the woods, girls who live in a trailer park, and the unexpected web of connections tying everyone together. It’s a book about finding your power, in more ways than one. I laughed and cried, and you will, too!” Molly Knox Ostertag, author of the Witch Boy series
“An absolute treasure. It’s kind, vibrant, and alive, with characters you’ll love immediatelyI had to reread it right away, because I wasn’t ready to say goodbye yet! An unforgettable story about loving ourselves, those around us, and the world we inhabit.” Gale Galligan, author of the Kristy’s Big Day graphic novel
“Snapdragon is the shero for the girl in every reader, casting her magic and fire on every panel, every page. Volume 2, please!” Rita Williams-Garcia, author of the Gaither Sisters series
Gr 5–8—"She fed her eye to the devil. She eats roadkill and casts spells with her bones." Middle school student Snapdragon has heard the rumors about the so-called witch who lives in her town, and when Snap's dog disappears, she goes to the witch's house, assuming the worst. But she finds only a quiet old woman, Jacks, who was nursing the dog back to health after an accident. Jacks spends her days burying animals and reassembling their skeletons, both to sell to collectors and to preserve the memory of their living days. As Snap gets to know Jacks, she slowly unravels a family secret…and realizes that maybe there is a witch in town after all. Leyh draws from her experience working on the "Lumberjanes" series to craft a work that centers inclusion and acceptance. Snap learns that often those who buck societal convention are marginalized, and her detailed, sprawling world includes several queer women of color, alongside parental figures who understand and nurture their children. Leyh makes bold choices with her cartoonish artwork; while many artists might have opted for a more somber aesthetic to depict this occasionally unsettling narrative, Leyh's anime-esque panel structure and imagery keep the content light and engaging even as the text grapples with the complexity of identity, family, and friendship. VERDICT This sensitive, slightly spooky tale will spur middle graders to mull the importance of fostering welcoming communities.—Matisse Mozer, Los Angeles Public Library
Lumberjanes comic books collaborator Leyh expertly blends fantasy and realism in her energetic debut solo middle-grade graphic novel.
"Our town has a witch. She fed her eye to the devil. She eats roadkill and casts spells with the bones." Snapdragon knows the rumors, but after the "roadkill witch" rescues Snap's beloved dog and agrees to foster abandoned possum babies, Snap starts to think all may not be as it seems. And it's true: The town's "witch" is actually Crocs-wearing, white-haired, one-eyed Jacks. Gruff but nurturing, Jacks takes Snap under her wing, teaching Snap her work of using bones from roadkill to build and sell anatomically correct skeletal systems. But it also turns out that Jacks is a witch, using magic to release the souls of roadkill back into nature, and Snap is desperate to find out if she can also channel magic. Leyh's characters are fully realized, from Snap's simultaneously overflowing skepticism and enthusiasm to her dynamic with her single working-while-in-school mom, from Jacks' quiet history with Snap's grandma to Snap's new best friend's transition to wearing skirts, loving nail polish, and being called Lulu. Their world isn't perfect: Snap and Lulu are bullied at school, economic struggles are apparent, and Snap's mom's abusive ex-boyfriend shows up more than once (including in a finale that has a twinge of deus ex machina). Jacks is white while Snap, her family, Lulu, and most secondary characters are coded as black—all, refreshingly, presenting with a realistic variety of skin tones and hair colors and textures.
Sweet and fierce, this is a must-have. (Graphic fantasy. 8-14)