Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Review: Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu, illustrated by Erin McGuire

A literary fairy tale for well-read middle graders...as well as a magical story for the rest of us.


BREADCRUMBS is the story of Hazel and her best friend, Jack.  They have been best friends for a long time, but Jack suddenly starts to change and they have a big fight.  Soon after, he goes into the woods with The White Witch and Hazel sets off on a quest to save him and bring him home.  She encounters good and evil in the woods...but nothing is as it seems.

"The woods does strange things to people." 

There are numerous references to classic children's literature - both new and old - that make their way into BREADCRUMBS.  Author Anne Ursu manages to sneak in everything from The Red Shoes and Chronicles of Narnia to When You Reach Me and Harry Potter.  For the well-read middle grader, BREADCRUMBS is a homecoming, a celebration of these wonderful books as the characters, references, and legends become intertwined.  For the rest of us, it still is a wonderful story.

As someone who has Narnia and Hogwarts fresh in my memory, I loved all of these little Easter Eggs sprinkled throughout the book.  Some references were more literal than others - like the White Witch (a reference to The Snow Queen).  Other references were more subtle, only noticed if  paying close attention.

But what about the references I may have missed? While I have read most of the literature Ursu touches upon, I have not read them all.  I still haven't read L'Engle's A Wrinkle In Time for example.  I couldn't help but worry at certain points - am I missing anything?  This made me worry about the kids who have not yet read The Chronicles of Narnia or Alice in Wonderland.  I can only think of one, maybe two, middle-grade readers that would truly appreciate all the nuances of BREADCRUMBS, but those who would not are still in for a treat. 

BREADCRUMBS is wonderful.  The writing is beautiful, the characters are interesting and flawed, and the storyline is captivating.  My friends at Walden Pond Press told me it was one of their favorites, and now I see why! 

The story is exciting, suspenseful, creepy, touching, sad and triumphant!  The woods are a magical wonderland that are at once intriguing and frightening.  It has been a long time since I have met a heroine quite like our brave Hazel - she is a dreamer full of imagination and possibility, yet no one in her world understands her.  She pulls the readers into the book, because the readers understand her - we are dreamers, writers, dancers and artists just like her. 

If you have a middle grade reader who enjoys fantasies and fairy tales, this would make a superb addition to his/her collection!


A note on the illustrations:  My copy only has one illustration included, not counting the cover.  The one illustration I saw makes me want to run out to the bookstore the day of release and take a look at the finished copy. 

Book Extras:
Author, Annd Ursu Website
Breadcrumbs page at HarperCollins - reading guide, excerpts and more

About the Book:
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Walden Pond Press (September 27, 2011)
Language: English 
ISBN-10: 0062015052
ISBN-13: 978-0062015051

About the Author: (From publisher)
Anne Ursu is the author of the three middle-grade novels that comprise the Cronus Chronicles trilogy: The Shadow Thieves, The Siren Song, and The Immortal Fire. She teaches at Hamline University's MFA program in Writing for Children and is a lifelong Minnesota Twins fan. Anne lives in Minneapolis with her son and cats.


*Disclosure:  A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher.

5 comments:

Zibilee said...

I have heard some really good things about this book, and really want to get the chance to check it out at some point. I am really glad to hear that you enjoyed it, and that you got a lot of the hidden references. It sounds like an amazing book! Thanks for the great review!

bermudaonion said...

I bet my sister would love this book - she loves fairy tale retellings.

Stephanie said...

Sounds like the perfect book for my 9 year old! Adding it to her Christmas list now! Thanks!

Book Sake said...

This sounds like something everyone in our house would adore. Can't wait to give it a read.

Michelle (Red Headed Book Child) said...

I'm so excited to read this one. I got it at the Trade show I worked at last week. She is from my neck of the woods!

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