A Guest Post by Laurel Snyder

Illustration Credit: Cornelia Li
Dear Reader,

When I was growing up, there weren’t books about kids like me. There were a few books about Jewish kids, and I loved them, but even so, I couldn’t find myself in those stories.

My own Jewish family wasn’t like the ones in the books. My parents were intermarried and divorced. We didn’t go to synagogue much, and only celebrated major holidays. As a result, the Jewish books I managed to get my hands on often made me feel like something of an outsider. “If that’s what it means to be Jewish, I guess I’m not,” was the refrain in my head.

What did make me feel represented was magic. I believed deeply in magic, and the library was full of incredible stories about kids who met fairies or walked through wardrobes to find themselves transported to other worlds. Like the kids in those books, I believed in magic, and through those books, I felt connected to other kids all over the world who longed for portals and magical friends. In magic, I wasn’t alone.

The Witch of Woodland is a combination of those two Laurels, those two versions of my own childhood. Like me, Zippy feels like an outsider. Like me, she’s curious and interested in what it means to be Jewish. She isn’t sure that she believes in God, exactly, but she knows deep in herself that she believes in magic, and she’s wrestling with how to resolve the two.

It's worth noting that though this is my eighth middle grade novel, it’s the first one in which I’ve engaged so fully with questions of Jewish identity. The ongoing rise in antisemitic violence made me realize how necessary it is for me to include this aspect of my life in my writing. I’m proud of my Jewish identity.

And there are an infinite number of ways to be Jewish! Like Zippy, I make a lot of mistakes, and learn from them. Like Zippy, I'm endlessly questioning and wrestling with the world around me. Like Zippy, I'm still finding my community (of which you are a welcome part). And for me, that’s a big part of what it means to be Jewish.

Happy reading,

Laurel Snyder

The Witch of Woodland releases on April 19, 2023. Pre-order it from your favorite bookshop.

Laurel Snyder, author of Orphan Island, returns with a story of one girl’s quest to answer the seemingly unanswerable questions about what makes us who we are.

Hi, whoever is reading this. I’m Zipporah Chava McConnell, but everyone calls me Zippy.

Things used to be simple—until a few weeks ago. Now my best friend, Bea, is acting funny; everyone at school thinks I’m weird; and my mom is making me start preparing for my bat mitzvah, even though we barely ever go to synagogue. In fact, the only thing that still seems to make sense is magic.

See, the thing is, I’m a witch. I’ve been casting spells since I was little. And even if no one else wants to believe in magic anymore, it’s always made sense to me, always felt true. But I was still shocked the day I found a strange red book at the library and somehow...I conjured something. A girl, actually. A beautiful girl with no memory, and wings like an angel. You probably don’t believe me, but I swear it’s the truth.

Miriam is like no one else I’ve ever met. She’s proof that magic is real. And, it’s hard to explain this part, but I just know that we’re connected. That means it’s up to me to help Miriam figure out what she is and where she came from. If I can do that, maybe everything else in my life will start to make sense too.

Anyway, it’s worth a try.


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