Leyh, Kat. Snapdragon. First Second. 2020. $12.99. 240p. PB. 9781250171115.
Snapdragon—Snap, for short—isn’t afraid of the witch living in her town. In fact, she’s sure Jacks isn’t a witch, since she took care of Snap’s dog when he was injured. That’s what drives Snap to bring a crate of orphaned possums to Jacks’s house, so that the old crone can look after them. When Jacks agrees to help Snap take care of the possums in exchange for assistance with her “work,” Snap isn’t afraid to enter into a deal. She knows everything there is to know about witches, and this Crocs-wearing senior couldn’t be one of them. Jacks might be grumpy, but she’s not dangerous. As Snap learns more about Jacks and her strange ways, she learns they have more in common than she thought, and that their connection goes back decades. Maybe witches can do good in this world, and maybe Snap could be one of them.
This is a beautiful graphic novel with a unique plot and beautifully illustrated characters. This book is not about queerness or transness but seamlessly includes both, and steers away from typical LGBT “lesson” books where the path to fulfillment ends with acceptance rather than some other complex goal. I don’t know that I’ve ever read a book for children that has such a queer ethos, where the characters are allowed to not only exist on the outskirts of society but find happiness there. Jacks cleans up roadkill, buries it, and rebuilds their skeletons to sell them on the internet. She wears a witch’s cloak and Crocs, and an eyepatch over her right eye. I don’t do any of those things but I have never felt so seen. Snap likewise reflects the realities of the upcoming generation, who seem to be more accepting of queer and trans people in their midst and have more interesting things going on in their lives. Kids today are more than ready for a book like this.
Highly recommended for kids who like the aesthetics and color palette of Raina Telgemeier’s books, but also like stories that have more of a spooky element. That said, this doesn’t have a whole lot of scary stuff in it, and many traditionally scary creatures (witches, ghosts, and other beasts) are actually benevolent, so it won’t likely give anyone nightmares. It could be a good book for opening up conversations about respecting the earth’s creatures, normalizing the concept of trans kids and queer seniors, or just plain finding a fun story with witchy elements.
Reviewed by Ashley Dunne