Monday, December 23, 2019

Review: Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu

Title: Breadcrumbs
Author: Anne Ursu
Illustrator: Erin Mcguire
Format: Paperback, 312 pages
Pub. Date: January 2nd 2013
Source: Half Price Books

Book Description:

The winner of numerous awards and recipient of four starred reviews, Anne Ursu's Breadcrumbs is a stunning and heartbreaking story of growing up, wrapped in a modern-day fairy tale.

Once upon a time, Hazel and Jack were best friends. But that was before he stopped talking to her and disappeared into a forest with a mysterious woman made of ice. Now it's up to Hazel to go in after him. Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen," Breadcrumbs is a stunningly original fairy tale of modern-day America, a dazzling ode to the power of fantasy, and a heartbreaking meditation on how growing up is as much a choice as it is something that happens to us.

In Breadcrumbs, Anne Ursu tells, in her one-of-a-kind voice, a story that brings together fifty years of children's literature in a tale as modern as it is timeless. Hazel's journey to come to terms with her evolving friendship with Jack will deeply resonate with young readers.

Supports the Common Core State Standards



I remember there being so much hype around this book when it came out. It seemed like everybody was reading and loving it. I remember seeing the beautiful, snowy cover all over the place. So, finally I caved into the hype and decided to give this one a read. I have mixed feelings about this one. While I didn't hate it and have most definitely read worse, I couldn't help but to be disappointed in the story.

I'll start out by saying, Anne Ursu is an unbelievable writer. She is so poetic and her writing becomes almost song-like. It's slow and soothing and easily pulls you into the story. The winter and snow is so well described, it conjures up images of fantastical mountain castles and a nostalgia of winters that we had as children.

I like the story conceptually. It's inspired by a classic Hans Christian Andersen fairytale called "The Snow Queen." It's easy to see where the author drew her inspiration from, and I think the overall story plays off of it well.

My troubles lie with the main character, Hazel. I didn't find her very relatable, or even very pleasant. I was okay with her bleakness- I was that kid growing up too. But what bothered me was how selfish she comes across. She is so unhealthily attached to her friend Jack. She "allows" him time to play with other friends, as though she actually has the power to decide who he can or cannot be friends with. She refers to him as "hers" which is possessive and creepy.

We're told that Hazel is very bookish, and a fan of all these wonderful books. There's a lot of literary references. We're told how imaginative, how creative she is. But the other tells and doesn't show. We never see her being creative or reading a book or being content with herself. It as though her entire personality and existence is tied to Jack's friendship with her. She's judgmental to those around her, and doesn't really seem to learn a lesson or reflect on how she acts to change for the better.

I wish I would have found myself cheering for her. This is a story where I know I am supposed to! I'm supposed to root for her to go on her quest, to brave whatever nasty magical things are to be found in the forest, to defeat the biggest evil of them all and to get her friend back safe and sound. But I didn't have that connection to her, so I didn't really care what happened, and that's not what you're looking for in a book.

I'm also not quite sure who this book is for? The flowery language and deeper messages read much older than the middle grade crowd that I think it's aimed towards. I think a lot of kids would be bored by the slow build and language of this story.

The illustrations make up a bit for the issues I had with the writing. They are absolutely beautiful, and do a good job of capturing the essence and tone of the passages they accompany. It was a nice little pick-me-up each time I came across one.

I also appreciate that Hazel is of Indian descent.

I know I'm in the minority here. A lot of people really enjoyed it. And I wanted to. Really I did. It wasn't for me though. The writing was descriptive at times but lacking very much in character development.


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