44 pages 1 hour read

Kat Leyh

Snapdragon

Fiction | Graphic Novel/Book | Middle Grade | Published in 2020

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Summary and Study Guide

Overview

Snapdragon is a 2020 middle-grade magical realism graphic novel written and illustrated by Kat Leyh. Leyh is most well-known for her work as a co-writer on Lumberjanes, a graphic novel series about a group of girls trying to solve supernatural mysteries at the summer camp where they work. Leyh is also the creator of SuperCakes, a queer superhero webcomic for middle-grade readers and teens. Snapdragon, Lumberjanes, and SuperCakes all feature characters with diverse intersections of race, gender, and sexuality.

Leyh’s authored and co-authored works, including Snapdragon, have been lauded for how they represent diversity for young readers. Snapdragon looks at The Intersection of Magic and Reality, The Social Effect of Being Perceived As Different, and how The Strength of Found Families can support loved ones amid such a climate.

Snapdragon was a Heavy Medal Mock Newbery finalist, and a winner for the Best in Middle-Grade Fiction and finalist for Book of the Year for the 2021 Excellence in Graphic Literature Award. It was also on the American Library Association’s 2021 Great Graphic Novels for Teens list.

This guide refers to the 2020 First Second paperback edition.

Content Warning: The source text contains descriptions and depictions of animal death and decomposition processes. The source text also includes depictions of parental rejection, domestic abuse, and bullying of two young girls, one who does not fit traditional gender roles and one who is trans.

Note: Snap’s best friend, Lulu, is a trans girl. This guide refers to Lulu with her lived name and pronouns. Early in the graphic novel, other people address Lulu by her deadname, “Louis,” and perceive her as male until she begins to socially transition around page 80.

Plot Summary

Snapdragon, nicknamed “Snap,” is looking for her dog G.B. She rides her bike to a house occupied by the town witch, who is rumored to eat pets. Snap doesn’t think magic is real but wants to check. Inside, Snap finds that G.B. lost a leg in an accident and was bandaged up. Though the witch, Jacks, jokes about eating him, she soon reveals she helped him. The next day at school, bullies push Snap into a dead possum. When she sees the possum has babies, Snap takes them to Jacks, hoping she can help them like she helped G.B. Jacks agrees on the condition that Snap help her with her work. Later, when Snap is walking G.B., a person who was with Snap’s bullies apologizes and says she isn’t friends with the other kids.

The next day, Snap wakes up early and helps Jacks collect roadkill. Jacks looks like she’s doing a spell over their bodies but doesn’t answer Snap’s questions about it. Instead, she tells Snap she saves them from the roadside and buries them with respect. After they decay, she rearticulates the bones and sells them to museums, collectors, and educators. This sparks Snap’s interest in skeletons. Later that day when she’s in a bookstore with her mother, Violet, Snap gets a book on skeletons.

Violet is worried about Snap being alone when she has night school, so Snap invites over Lulu, the person who apologized about the bullies. They bond over their love of scary movies. Snap tells her about an entity called One-Eyed Tom, who she thinks started haunting her family in her grandmother’s generation. As time goes on, Jacks teaches Snap about caring for the possum babies and articulating skeletons. As Snap and Lulu become better friends, Lulu is more comfortable exhibiting her true gender expression around Snap.

While getting a skirt in her mother’s closet for Lulu, who is transgender, Snap finds a picture of her grandmother Jessie with Jacks when they were young. Jacks admits that she and Jessie fell in love, despite contemporary prejudice against both interracial and lesbian relationships. They broke up because Jessie wanted a big family and Jacks didn’t want kids. Jacks was kicked out of the house by her parents in her youth and was afraid of perpetuating that trauma with her own kids.

At school, Lulu and Snap are teased by bullies. After one of them makes a transphobic comment, Snap headbutts him and Violet is called to pick her up. Snap feels alienated from the rest of her peers besides Lulu. She tells Violet that while she wondered if she was a boy, she decided she feels like a girl even though she doesn’t act like one.

When it’s time to release the possums, Snap sees the ghost of the mother possum. She now knows magic is real and Jacks really is a witch, who uses her powers to release and bring dignity to the spirits of the animals who are hit on the road. She takes Snap on as an apprentice. This revelation also makes Snap realize that One-Eyed Tom isn’t haunting her family; the fox is Jacks’s animal familiar who uses Jacks’s missing eye to watch out for Jessie’s family. Snap immediately tells Lulu everything.

Snap struggles to learn magic and snaps at Jacks for the way she’s teaching her. Snap can see energy but cannot yet summon the will to channel and direct it. Jacks discourages the use of things like wands, which she calls junk that distracts. Snap wishes she could use such props; while playing around with a wand-like stick one day, Lulu says she wishes she had longer hair that she could style. Her desire to help her friend triggers Snap’s magic, which causes Lulu’s hair to grow.

On Halloween, Jacks takes Snap flying on a bench. They hover over a street and save animals from traffic. When Snap sees a possum about to be hit, she uses her wand and accidentally almost sends a car off a cliff. To Jacks, this confirms her belief that props are a distraction from magic, which should be handled carefully. She has told Snap about the history of witches being perceived as dangerous and doesn’t want to perpetuate these beliefs.

Violet talks to her friend Hersch about how she thinks she relies on Snap to take care of herself too much. Meanwhile, Violet’s abusive ex-boyfriend Chuck tries to get into Violet and Snap’s trailer even though Snap tells him he isn’t supposed to be there. He wants to take back G.B., who he considers his dog even though Snap takes care of him. He tries to seize G.B., who struggles and bites him. Chuck attacks Snap, who defends herself with magic. This enrages Chuck further.

Through her bond with One-Eyed Tom, Jacks sees what is happening. A spirit of a buck she once saved animates her old motorcycle. She rides to Snap’s trailer as Chuck tries to sic his dogs on Snap, but Snap uses her magic to calm and befriend them. Together, Jacks and Snap use their magic to stop Chuck’s attack. Jacks apologizes to Snap for thinking that Snap’s way of practicing magic was wrong just because it was different.

Three weeks later, Snap invites Jacks to Thanksgiving at Jessie’s house. Snap’s grandfather passed away years ago, and she wants Jacks and Jessie to reunite. Though Jacks is hesitant at first, she agrees. On Thanksgiving, Snap talks to Lulu on the phone. Lulu wants to be a witch now too, and she’s practicing using magic to grow plants. At Jessie’s house, Jessie is shocked to see Jacks, but they have a warm reunion as Jacks is accepted into the family. Jacks continues to mentor Snap, who is now proud to be a witch.

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