Saturday, March 22, 2014

Book Review: Breadcrumbs

Media Type: Print Book
Title: Breadcrumbs
Author: Anne Ursu
Publisher: Walden Pond Press
Pages: Hardcover; 312
Release Date: September 27, 2011
Source: Library
Content Screening: Mild Violence

HDB Rating: 5 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Lovers of fairy tales, both young and old. Anyone looking to get lost in a book.

Once upon a time, Hazel and Jack were best friends. They had been best friends since they were six, spending hot Minneapolis summers and cold Minneapolis winters together, dreaming of Hogwarts and Oz, superheroes and baseball. Now that they were eleven, it was weird for a boy and a girl to be best friends. But they couldn't help it - Hazel and Jack fit, in that way you only read about in books. And they didn't fit anywhere else.

And then, one day, it was over. Jack just stopped talking to Hazel. And while her mom tried to tell her that this sometimes happens to boys and girls at this age, Hazel had read enough stories to know that it's never that simple. And it turns out, she was right. Jack's heart had been frozen, and he was taken into the woods by a woman dressed in white to live in a palace made of ice. Now, it's up to Hazel to venture into the woods after him. Hazel finds, however, that these woods are nothing like what she's read about, and the Jack that Hazel went in to save isn't the same Jack that will emerge. Or even the same Hazel.

Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen," Breadcrumbs is a story of the struggle to hold on, and the things we leave behind.

Where do I begin? I feel as though anything I write about Breadcrumbs won't do it justice. That all the feelings that are wrapped up inside of me are entirely too large to fit into a review. Still, a review is the only way I know how to show my appreciation for this magical book, and so I'll do my best. I'll tell you now, if I could give this book a million star rating? I would. The entire time I was lost in Anne Ursu's brilliant story, I felt like I might be a bit enchanted myself. That feeling still hasn't gone away.

The writing is exquisite. Ursu weaves her words into a world filled with crystalline white snow. A world filled with boring school days, vivid imaginations, rocky friendships and a web of magic that pulses underneath it all. I knew that this was a retelling of "The Snow Queen" from the synopsis. I thought I knew what to expect. I was wrong. This isn't just a retelling. Instead it is a gorgeous mesh of two parallel worlds. One is a world in which a little girl is looking for where she belongs. For how she is supposed to fit. Then there is another world where steeling yourself against the ice, where forging forward despite the odds, is the only way to survive. This story is many things, but most of all it's a story about growing up and trying to hang onto that piece of yourself that growing up threatens to take away.

I cannot express enough how much I loved Hazel as a character. I've worked with kids for many years, and I know that it's tough to write a middle grade character who is as vibrant and layered as they are. Hazel is so very close to perfection in that respect. I believed I was in the mind of a fifth grader. I believed that Hazel was a real person with real thoughts and feelings. It's true that she is wise beyond her years, but I think I saw a little bit of myself in her. Reading and imagination go hand in hand. They take you magical places, and help you see the world in a new light. For Hazel, they show her that sometimes words are plastic flowers. That sometimes parents are just as lost as you are. Most of all, that sometimes the only thing you can do is push forward. Especially when your best friend needs you.

If I don't stop here, I'll gush for ages. I really will. I loved everything about this book. I smiled, and I cried. I drank this down like a person who hasn't had anything to drink in years. There was something missing inside me, something that called me to read this book. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, this is the type of book that I want to read to my someday children. I would love to wrap myself up in its pages and live there forever. This book is pure magic, and it settles right into its rightful spot on my favorite books of all time.


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