Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu is a modern twist on a classic book for kids that your little ones will love! Melissa Gaynor from Sweet on Books explains why:
What You Need to Know:
• Best friends, Hazel and Jack, enter a fairy tale world where they learn to cope with some very real world problems.
• Breadcrumbs, a modern retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen, is a Library Guild Selection.
• Breadcrumbs was also chosen for National Public Radio’s December Backseat Book Club.
• Hazel makes many references to fairy tales and novels, like A Wrinkle in Time, Narnia and The Golden Compass.
• The girl is the heroine of the story, rescuing the boy in distress.
• Hazel was adopted from India as a baby.
Be careful what you wish for! A fantasy world with witches and spells always seemed exciting to Hazel, until her best friend Jack disappears, that is, and she actually has to journey into that territory.
Hazel and Jack, have long been best friends, depending on each other for support as they faced some harsh realities. As many fifth-graders do, Hazel feels different. But, for Hazel, that feeling is compounded by the fact that she also looks different. Because she was adopted from India, when she was a baby, she doesn’t even look like her own mom, she’s “un-matching.” On top of that, her parents have recently divorced, her dad is rarely in touch, money is scarce, she’s in a new school, she doesn’t relate to the girls in her class, and her bad behavior has landed her in the school psychologist’s office. Jack has his own issues, as his mother, with her “dead eyes,” copes with depression and neglects her family. Living next door to each other in a simple Minnesota neighborhood, they’ve grown up playing in the snow together, daydreaming of imaginary palaces, superheroes and superpowers. Lately, though, peer pressure has put a strain on their friendship. And then one day, Jack simply disappears and Hazel is left completely on her own.
“What if I told you that there was a place where there are extraordinary things, things with great power, things that could give you your heart’s desire, things much bigger than this small, small world?”
Alone in the forest one day, Jack hears those words from a mysterious white snowy figure, and he easily leaves reality and his friend Hazel, behind. When Hazel hears that someone like her imagined “Snow Queen” might have had something to do with Jack’s disappearance, she’s determined to find him and bring him home. She quickly discovers, though, that a world with magic and witches doesn’t make as much sense as she had imagined. She encounters puzzling wolves, a mysterious clock, strange ravens, a girl who was turned into a bird, a girl who can’t stop dancing, and an old couple who seem like the parents you would want to have, but who turn their guests into flowers. As Hazel learns, people seem to enter the woods because they want something. They go there in search of hope, solace, an escape, or a better life, but the fantasy world offers them none of that.
This memorable story is eloquently written and thought-provoking. It would definitely inspire interesting classroom or book group discussions. References to other literature are cleverly woven into the story, like when Hazel meets a boy in the forest and asks, “The white witch? Like Narnia?”, and is told, “No, Narnia is like her.” The vivid imagery, created through visions of ice and snow, brings the story to life. Readers should know that the fantasy doesn’t begin until the book is half way through. Also, some elements, like why Jack’s parents claim he went to live with an old aunt when he disappeared, are left unanswered. The story touches upon many sad and unfortunate circumstances and maintains an undercurrent of despair. There is a glimmer of hope in the end, though, because as Hazel realizes along the way, “This is what happens on journeys – the things you find are not necessarily the things you had gone looking for.”
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