Thursday, March 25, 2021

Snapdragon by Kat Leyh

If there's an old lady living on the edge of town, she's going to get called a witch. Especially if she keeps to herself. Especially if she's odd in other ways. "Witch" is the word people use to put independent older women in a bucket - sometimes they get worse than words.

Snap lives in a town with a witch. Or, at least, that's what people say. The witch dresses all in black, lives by herself, gathers roadkill. People say she kills pets, too. So Snap goes to the witch's house when her dog, Good Boy, disappears. That's how Snapdragon opens. (Snapdragon is Snap's full name -- her family names girls after their mother's favorite flower. This will be a plot point.)

As usual, "the witch" is not a witch. Or, not a witch in the way Snap's schoolmates mean -- not a nasty, evil, crabbed woman cursing people. She may be a witch in some other way.

Snap is tough and strong-willed and pushy, which is good: she's an only child of a single mother who's very busy with work and school and everything else. And Snap is not the most popular kid in her school, to put it mildly. She has at least one friend we see, who was named Louis at birth but comes to want to be called Lulu and to present as a girl over the course of this book. But that probably is her only friend. She's ten or so, probably just starting middle school.

But back to Snap and the witch, back to that opening scene.

The "witch" actually saved Good Boy. Her name is Jacks, and she's the age of Snap's grandmother - more than just the age, actually, which is also a plot point - and she collects and articulates bones to sell online. She seems to revel in making people think she is a witch, though -- that she eats roadkill and reanimates it, that she abducts pets, all sorts of other nonsense. In the real world, she also does a bit of animal rehab: sometimes she finds animals that are road-damaged but not road-kill, as Good Boy was, and she fixes them up as best she can.

Before long, Snap needs her help with some animals, and Jacks gets Snap's help with her work in return. They come to learn more about each other, and about their connection.

Well, multiple connections.

Jacks did know Snap's grandmother, so that's one.

And Jacks is a witch, of a kind. And Snap could be, as well.

Snapdragon is the story of those connections -- most importantly the family and witchery connections between Snap and Jacks, but also the friendship and support connections between Snap and Lulu, the connections between Snap and her mother, and, distantly in the background, that connection between Jacks and Snap's grandmother. It's a book about family, in its way -- more about found families, or created families, but we also see that Snap's mom, and even Lulu's parents, are doing their best and trying hard to be the best parents for their particular quirky, changing children that they can be.

It's all by Kat Leyh, whose work I don't really know otherwise. (I did see her work briefly in Lumberjanes -- and I say "her" there only on the thin evidence that Lumberjanes has always been by and for female-identified persons.) There's no biographical note in the book: I don't know if this is Leyh's first major graphic work or the tenth. Either way, it's strong and fun and true and real, and I hope to see a lot more of Leyh's work in the future.

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