In December, National Public Radio chose Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu for its Backseat Book Club. The club asks kids between 9 and 14 years old and their parents to read books and send to the club their comments. I heard the end of the month report on an NPR podcast and was impressed with the observations made by numerous students. Hearing that The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis inspired the recent work, I borrowed a copy and started to read.
"It snowed right before Jack stopped talking to Hazel" seems a rather modest first sentence, but having finished the book, I see much is introduced by these nine words. The statement launches a tale that at first seems very contemporary but then turns magical. Hazel is an 11 year old adopted by American parents from India and brought back to Minneapolis. She and her best friend Jack share an interest in reading, fantasy games, and the Minnesota Twins, but they do not agree about other 5th graders. Jack has a wide circle of friends, but Hazel is only interested in Jack. A snowball in the back marks the start of a series of events that leads the two to a dangerous place far beyond their neighborhood.
The author obviously knows and loves fantasy literature, and like-minded readers will recognize references to genre classics, such a The Hobbit and The Wizard of Oz. What I especially like is how Hazel draws on her reading to understand her own challenges. Of course, not every thing is as it first seems in Breadcrumbs. Readers of all ages will have fun sorting the good from the evil with Hazel.
Click here to learn more about the Backseat Book Club.
Ursu, Anne. Breadcrumbs. Walden Pond Press, 2011. 312p. ISBN 9780062015051.