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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu

Title: Breadcrumbs
Author: Anne Ursu
ISBN: 978-0-06-201505-1
Publisher: Walden Pond Press
Genre: Juvenile Fiction/Fantasy
Pages: 336
Rating: 4 Crowns

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," Breadcrumbsis a story of the struggle to hold on, and the things we leave behind.

My thoughts:

Breadcrumbs is a novel best described as magical. In telling her story, Anne Ursu pays homage to fairy tales like The Little Match Girl and Hansel and Gretel and novels like The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. I was reminded more than once of Narnia and the White Witch, especially when the Snow Queen arrives in a sleigh and asks Jack if he'd like some Turkish Delight. The world that Hazel finds herself in does not have the charm of Narnia however. There is danger everywhere even with those who seem perfectly harmless and Hazel goes into the woods knowing that she will have to fight evil to get Jack back. 

Hazel is a character who is at times wise beyond her years and at other times very young. She has an active imagination and she's entered a time when grownups tend to start encouraging kids to be more serious. This causes difficulties for Hazel in school where she struggles to pay attention. She is intelligent but her curiosity gets her into trouble. Jack is the one bright spot in her life since her dad left. He shares her creativity and they like to make up stories and superpowers together. Lately though Jack has been spending more time with his buddies, Bobby and Tyler. Even before the incident with the Snow Queen, Jack and Hazel start to grow apart. Hazel is at a pivotal moment in her life as she begins to leave childhood behind and her quest to save Jack helps her come to grips with the idea of growing up without losing yourself. 

One of the themes of this book seems to be about the importance of creativity and encouraging creativity in young people. Breadcrumbs certainly succeeds with that. The writing style adds to that sense of magic and wonder. The descriptions of cold really pulled me into the story. There were a couple of times that I thought maybe the writing style would not appeal to younger kids but I think tweens in 5th and 6th grade would appreciate it. Anne Ursu has a gift for description and creating a sense of place. Overall I thought this was a fantastic story and one I would suggest to fans of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobeand Inkheart. Breadcrumbs would make the perfect book to read on a cold winter day when you want nothing more than to curl up with a book and a mug of hot cocoa. 

Note: I received a copy of this book for review through the Amazon Vine program

Christina T @ Reading Extensively

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