Reviewed by Julie, Children's Lit. enthusiast and pop culture geek
Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen,” Anne Ursu’s stunning novel BREADCRUMBS tells the story of Hazel and Jack, two best friends who used to do everything together. One day, Jack stops talking to Hazel, and—just like that—their friendship stops. As Hazel struggles, a loner in her new school, trying to figure out what went wrong, she soon stumbles upon an unlikely explanation: an ice queen has taken Jack’s heart captive, and only Hazel can bring her former best friend back.
“Breadcrumbs” is equal parts realism and fantasy, appealing to children who like either or both. While children will sympathize with Hazel’s friendship woes, her bully troubles, and her absent father, they will also delight in her journey into a mystical wood. There, she meets enchanting and mysterious figures—a woodsman, a lost little girl, etc.—who, along with her courage and hunger for friendship, help her to continue her quest. Lyrical language, a strong propensity for detail, and an understanding of high fantasy push this novel into moments of stark, sad beauty that is growing up. One of my favorite passages is this quote by the uncle of Hazel’s new friend: “I believe that the world isn't always we can see...I believe there are secrets in the woods. And I believe that goodness wins out...So, if someone's changed overnight--by witch curse or poison apple or were-turtle--you have to show them what's good. You show them love. That works a surprising amount of the time. And if that doesn't save them, they're not worth saving."
I would recommend this novel to anyone with a strong love of books, fantasy, and fiction. A child who understands imagination as a means of both escape and re-entrance into reality will find Hazel’s story to be comforting and captivating. While some children may balk at the muted ending, it offers a fantastic opportunity for discussion and prediction as to what they expect to happen next in the saga of Jack and Hazel.
Market: Middle Grade Fiction
Violence: mildMature Themes: Bullying, depression, absent parents, identity/adoption (mixed heritage)