January 19, 2012

Magical winter fairy tale

by Anne Ursu

There's a line right in the beginning of this magical book that really attracted me - about snow: fluffy white flakes big enough to show their crystal architecture, like perfect geometric poems. You just know that something special is hidden inside. Something mysterious and wonderful. 

Hazel Anderson doesn't fit. She likes make-believe and superheroes. The other kids do not, and her mother doesn't understand either. Hazel's best friend is Jack, who likes superheroes too. She fits in when she's with Jack. But then Jack suddenly stops talking to her. Without him, Hazel feels lost. Her mother tells her that these things happen; that people change for no reason. But Hazel feels that there's something more. And she is right. Jack was taken away by a woman in white. On a sleigh.

So Hazel goes into the woods to find him and bring him back. In this version of Hans Christian Andersen's Snow Queen, Hazel meets wolves, a woodsman, enchanted flowers, and a witch. And she must come to terms with loss, betrayal, friendship, growing up, and unhappily ever after.

In Breadcrumbs, Anne Ursu has created a perfect gem of a novel for children struggling to fit in. She does so with understanding, sympathy, and love.

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