Once upon a time, Hazel and Jack were best friends. They had been best friends since they were six, spending hot Minneapolis summers and cold Minneapolis winters together, dreaming of Hogwarts and Oz, superheroes and baseball. Now that they were eleven, it was weird for a boy and a girl to be best friends. But they couldn’t help it – Hazel and Jack fit, in that way you only read about in books. And they didn’t fit anywhere else.
And then, one day, it was over. Jack just stopped talking to Hazel. And while her mom tried to tell her that this sometimes happens to boys and girls at this age, Hazel had read enough stories to know that it’s never that simple. And it turns out, she was right. Jack’s heart had been frozen, and he was taken into the woods by a woman dressed in white to live in a palace made of ice. Now, it’s up to Hazel to venture into the woods after him. Hazel finds, however, that these woods are nothing like what she’s read about, and the Jack that Hazel went in to save isn’t the same Jack that will emerge. Or even the same Hazel.
Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen,” Breadcrumbs is a story of the struggle to hold on, and the things we leave behind.
When visiting my grandma as a child, one of my favorite things to do was to hide away in her spare bedroom with a big thick book of fairy tales she kept on a bookshelf in there. At the beginning of every chapter there was a black and white drawing of one of the scenes in the story. I distinctly remember the troll under the bridge in Three Billy Goats Gruff. The stories were magical. I wish I had that book today!
As an adult, I don’t read fairy tales anymore. I have moved on and haven’t had the opportunity to. When I read the synopsis of Breadcrumbs I knew I had to give it a try to see if I could recapture some of that wonder I had as a child.
From the beginning it is apparent that even though this is intended as a middle grade read, the writing is more suited for someone older than 8-12 years of age. Not that the story line is too deep or the language too difficult, but the writing is wonderfully descriptive and gorgeously appealing. It’s not something I can see a middle grader settling into and enjoying the quality of, if you can understand where I’m coming from.
The story itself starts out well. I enjoy the quality of Hazel and Jack’s friendship and the ease with which they get along to the exclusion of others. When Jack is taken away by the Snow Queen and Hazel enters the forest to find him and bring him home is where the fairy tale actually begins. The references to Narnia, Harry Potter and classic fairy tales were fun…at first. Then I began to feel they were a bit too contrived. Wolves, and axemen and ballet slippers you will find in many fairy tales and this story has a lot of them. I began to get bored when I felt the charming elements of the fairy tales from my youth were being crammed in on every page and I began to lose what the story was truly about.
When Hazel finally rescues Jack from the Snow Queen at the end of the story (come on, you knew she was going too!) my heart thawed a little. Ms. Ursu does write a beautiful story about friendship, betrayal, growing up and changing. 3/5 stars