Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu. Grades 4-7. Walden Pond Press (HarperCollins), September 2011. 313 pages. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.
Hazel has always felt... different. She looks different than most of the kids in her classes and even different from her parents, but that didn't feel so bad until her dad left and she had to switch schools. Her new public school is a lot different from her Montessori school and Hazel's having some trouble following the rules. Luckily, she always has her very best friend Jack beside her. She and Jack have been best friends since they were six, playing fantastic games and fitting with each other in a way that neither of them fits in with the outside world.
When something terrible happens and Jack no longer seems to want to be Hazel's friend, Hazel is crushed. And when Jack disappears, Hazel knows she has to be the one to find him. Hazel will go to the ends of the earth to protect her friend... and she's going to have to.
This is a story that will stick with you. It's a quiet sort of book, a fairy tale based on Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen, and just like the snow, the story sneaks in through cracks and blows in under doors until you can't get it out of your head. Such is the charm of Hazel. She's going along, doing her thing, and then I realized that I was thinking about her when I wasn't reading the book. Thinking about her and wondering how she was doing and worrying about her when things were not going particularly well.
Anne Ursu's beautiful story builds on itself, quietly and steadily, like snow drifts building. In fact, it kinda broke my heart a little bit. This is a story that looks at some heavy stuff through a child-friendly lens. Hazel's dealing with being different. She's dealing with changes to her family and her school. And in the middle of all of this, she's lost her rock. And when she goes to save the day, to save her rock, she's met with a fantastic, enchanted forest, not knowing whom to trust or where to go or what to do.
It's sad and beautiful and will appeal to kids (and adults) who still want to believe in magic. Try it on fans of other reimagined fairy tales, like East by Edith Pattou or A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz.
Check out more reviews at A Fuse #8 Production and The Brain Lair.
I'm hearing quite a bit of Newbery buzz around this title, so make sure you look for it! Breadcrumbs will be on shelves September 27!