Review by Frank Plowright
Snapdragon is a loner who’s developed defence mechanisms to avoid other kids in the area, which makes her a target at school. What she doesn’t see, and what Kat Leyh cleverly draws the reader’s attention to, is that she’s not too far removed from the eccentric old woman who the kids refer to as a witch. Pleasingly Leyh jumps straight into this story, Snap almost certain the woman isn’t a witch, but still cautious in the face of a surly reception.
It’s a delight to experience how Leyh gradually brings Snap out of her shell, providing her with friends and enthusiasms, yet never rushing the process, making it seem organic. Snap is likeable, open-minded and diligent, and creative with it. Her relationship with the witch, actually just Jacks, is established early, and their scenes together are a delight, Jacks crusty, but caring, and Snap instantly seeing through sarcasm. Better still, she’ll take Jacks’ stories and embellish them when talking to her friend Louis.
Quirky cartooning provides memorable characters, and Leyh places them in fully rendered backgrounds, every location being something to let seep in. Because Snapdragon so often surprises, it’s never too long before there’s something new and visually fascinating. Leyh combines those skills with a talent for the dramatic offering plenty of small moments of reinforcement throughout. One is a bookstore counter assistant telling Snap the book she’s chosen isn’t aimed at her age group, and her supportive mother immediately noting she’ll take it anyway. Leyh’s completely fearless about letting the story take her where it will. If that’s an interlude in the past or a monster story, that’s what we see. So much else is completely natural and non-judgemental, along the lines of not caring how someone looks or who they get together with. It’s very refreshing to see many such moments just accepted.
Leyh keeps pushing this further, although so organically that the mystical realism just sneaks right on in, and while there’s a threat hanging over the story, a major conflict isn’t on the agenda, which is refreshing. Snapdragon is a delight from beginning to end, and the type of story you can read and can’t imagine how it could have been told any better.