This was great. In fact I liked it so much I read it all over again before sitting down to write here. It’s about a fierce, somewhat sullen kid who gets picked on in school for being different- she’s rough around the edges but so determined just to be herself. She lives in a trailer park and becomes friends with a boy next door who is quite her opposite- he likes glitter and pink nail polish and eventually through the arc of the story comes to feel comfortable wearing skirts and being called Lulu instead of Louis. Which is presented as just a side detail but so easily woven into the narrative. (And they love watching horror movies together.) For her part, Snapdragon (named after her mother’s favorite flower) is getting to know this old lady in the woods who lives in a creepy house and isn’t at all upset that people call her a witch- it keeps them off her porch so to speak. She rescued Snap’s dog, so when some schoolkids find a dead possum and Snapdragon gathers up the orphaned babies, she takes them to the witch. The old lady promises to care for the little possums (or rather, teach Snap how to do so) if Snapdragon will help in with her work. Which is gathering roadkilled animals, burying them to let nature clean them down to bones, and then reassembling the skeletons to sell online. Snap is so awestruck by how creepy and scientific this is. She’s eager to help, but even more amazed when finds out the old lady actually is a witch as the town rumors her to be. Except not in the way people guess. More in a way that honors the dead animals’ spirits.
So much to this book I can’t tell it all (nor would I want to). It surprised me at nearly every turn. And I don’t usually like stories that have ghosts or magical realism (I think that’s how you’d categorize this one)! More of a surprise is the connection Snap’s family history has with the witch. Easy inclusion of many difficult topics and non-conforming people. Not the least of which, Snapdragon is bi-racial, turns out the witch is a lesbian and her grandmother was bisexual. Her mom has a nasty ex-boyfriend who comes around and threatens people, her dog looses a leg . . . etc.
I just loved Snap’s character. And the possums! And get this, my kid’s favorite scene in the book is when Snap goes with her mother (who works long hours and is studying to be a firefighter) to a bookstore. Snap picks out a technical-looking book on comparative anatomy and when the shop lady sweetly says “oh, honey this isn’t a nice book for little girls- we have a lot of cute books about animals!” Snap and her mother both scowl, her mother firmly insists she’ll buy the book, and Snap eagerly absorbs information and facts from it all the way home. Ha!
Borrowed from the public library.