First Second. Feb. 2020. 240p. pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781250171115.
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.

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