Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu: A Classroom Reading Review

September 14, 2018 Reviews 10 ★★★★½

Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu: A Classroom Reading ReviewBreadcrumbs by Anne Ursu
Published by Walden Pond Press on September 27, 2011
Genres: Middle Grade, Contemporary Fantasy
Pages: 312
Source: Purchased
My content rating: MG
My rating:
4.5 Stars

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.

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I read this book with my homeschool language arts class (last spring—for some reason it’s taken me this long to post this—I have no idea why), and the class really enjoyed it!

We started out by reading “The Snow Queen,” which the book is based on. It was fun to see the parallels between the two stories and to see where Ursu strayed from the original. The book is split into two parts—the first part takes place almost entirely in the real world (with a few small fantastical elements thrown in), and the second part takes place in a fantasy world as Hazel goes off to try and rescue Jack from the white witch. The two parts of the book are completely different, and I was slightly surprised how long it took to get to the fantasy portion of the book.

The book focuses on Hazel’s sense of not belonging, both because she’s a dreamer and can’t seem to follow the world’s rules and because she’s adopted and her parents have recently divorced. These themes resonated with the kids in my class. Once Hazel gets to the fantasy world, I expected a bit more fantastical action, but the book is more about her personal interior journey than it is about overcoming villains.

The lyrical prose is gorgeous (which I appreciated). And there are TONS of references to older fantasy series like The Chronicles of Narnia, A Wrinkle in Time (which we happened to read last semester), His Dark Materials, etc. The book also incorporates many different fairy tales, not just “The Snow Queen.” The kids in my class absolutely adored these references and were excited to point them all out.

I worried that the ending of the book was a teensy bit anticlimactic for MG readers, and there were quite a few unresolved elements. But I was surprised that the majority of the students in my class really appreciated the bittersweet ending (my daughter and one other student weren’t as convinced, but overall the impression of the ending was positive).

Have you read this one? What did you think?

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