Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu

Inspired by Grimm's fairy tale "The Snow Queen" the author has crafted a chapter book about two friends, Hazel and Jack, fifth graders who live next door to each other, go to school together, play together--until this year. Hazel is hurt and bewildered by Jack's sudden decision to spend his time with his male classmates, often excluding her in rude, gruff ways. She feels very much alone. She is trying to make sense of her mother and father getting a divorce, causing her to leave a much-loved private school where she excelled. The public school is not challenging her academically, she has not made any new friends, and she is struggling with the fact that she is adopted, and she and her parents do not "match"--Hazel is an Asian Indian and her parents are white. The one bright spot in her life was her best friend Jack.
During recess one day, Jack is struck in the eye by a sharp object and is taken for medical attention and then home. Hazel decides to stop at his house to check on him, and his parents tell her that Jack has gone to a relative's house to recuperate. Hazel finds this odd, and decides to go to a shed in the woods where she and Jack used to talk out their problems as well as plan fun stuff. As she approaches the spot, she sees Jack climb into a white sleigh with a woman who closely resembles the Snow Queen of fairy tale fame. She decides that Jack must have been tricked into doing this, and she must rescue him.
Hazel's mission takes her deep into a forest filled with literary references that she and Jack have shared over the years. She is frightened but determined to help her friend. With each scary incident she realizes that she is stronger than she thought she was, and makes up her mind to be more focused on the positive aspects of her life, and less dependent on Jack as her only friend, if they ever emerge from this dark and threatening forest. They do! 2011.

M. Cooney

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