Sunday, December 11, 2011

Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu - surely on the short list for the Newbery?

When I was a kid, there was an animated movie version of "The Snow Queen."  A sliver of ice falls into the eye of a young boy named Kay and it works its way into his heart, turning it cold and making him fall prey to the beautiful Snow Queen.  His friend Gerda has to journey to save him, even though he doesn't feel as if he needs saving.

I still remember the dialogue as Gerda fights to get her friend back.  "Kay shall remain with me," says the Snow Queen in her icy and measured voice. 

This Hans Christian Andersen story is the backbone of Anne Ursu's new novel, called Breadcrumbs.  But what I like about this version more than anything is how real the characters of Hazel and Jack seem to be.  They have always been best friends but now they are in the fifth grade and Jack appears to be pulling away from Hazel.  This is something that Hazel cannot understand or accept, and she has had to accept much in the last year with her father leaving and re-marrying.  Hazel is completely misunderstood by her teachers and classmates and only has her mother and Jack to turn to. That, and her wild imagination.  This is something that she and Jack had always shared.

Hazel and Jack's other friend Tyler are the only ones who believe that something is wrong when Jack doesn't return to school after an incident where a piece of glass flies into his eye.  Hazel is the only one brave enough to recognize that she has to follow him into the woods to find him.  And she does so with a hastily-packed backpack filled with energy bars and a baseball signed by Joe Mauer.

Hazel, while brave, is also filled with self-doubt.  She often feels small, "like a splotch" or a little feathered dinosaur that has to go up against a T-Rex.  But she continues with her quest despite her fears and doubts.  I love that this book shows a courageous character who struggles and stumbles and then gets back up. 

The book has already won several accolades and I am very hopeful that it is at the front of the minds of Newbery committee members.  

Here's the awesome discussion guide from Anne Ursu's site.

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