Monday, March 26, 2012

Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday: Breadcrumbs, by Anne Ursu

Here's one more Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday entry. I actually had this ready for last Monday, but I was flat on my back with the flu, so I didn't get it posted. Clearly, having this external deadline for posting is good for my post regularity. (Rather like high-fibre cereal.)(Never mind, not going there.) This will be my last consecutive (relatively) MMGM--I will do more in future, but I'll mix it up a bit in the meantime. Though obviously I like middle-grade fiction! (Really, it's just a boring, categorizing name for Children's Literature, right?)

I was excited to read Breadcrumbs because I liked Anne Ursu's Chronus Chronicles so much. Well, The Chronus Chronicles were good*. But Breadcrumbs is really, really good! It's poetry and folklore and true, true story, and it feels just like an ice shard being drawn out of your heart.

It"s a retelling of the Snow Queen, which I've always found a beautifully uncomfortable tale, and Breadcrumbs nails it. It's one of those stories about stories, but it's nowhere near as simple as that. It reminds me of The Life of Pi, in the way that fantasy could actually just be all in your head but is no less real because of it. Breadcrumbs is a fairy tale, several, in fact, but it is also a problem novel about friendship and family and fitting in. Hazel's relationship with Jack is exquisitely drawn. Her loneliness at school is a character in itself. And the overlap between the real world and the magical wood is painfully realistic. The story of the matchgirl brought me to tears.

I'm going to have to reread my Hans Christian Anderson. His stories have always bothered me: even the ones with happy endings are still so sad. Anne Ursu gets Hans Christian Anderson. Someone (not me!) is going to write a thesis on what she does with his characters and themes. I'll just say that Ursu gets why someone would go with the White Witch into the wood, and she gets the price to set him free.

Beautiful writing, beautiful story. And if there were Academy Awards for authors, Ursu would get the one for best use of allusions to favourite kids' books!

Breadcrumbs is the taste of fresh snow when you've been cross-country skiing through the woods and you're hot and thirsty and the snow is so white and fluffy and it tastes cleaner than anything and it's so cold it hurts your heart when you swallow.

Be sure to check out the origin of MMGM: Shannon Messenger's blog, where she links to all the other MMGMers with their excellent recommendations.

*And I just discovered a weird sort of symmetry: Kate Coombs liked the Chronus Chronicles so much that she commented on my review of them, which led me to discover her blog, which led to me reading her book The Runaway Princess, which I just reviewed last week. (The blogosphere is a strange, spiraling galaxy of a virtual place!)


  1. I've heard nothing but good things about Breadcrumbs. I've got to read it. (Fellow MMGM poster)

  2. I agree with Laurisa. I really want to read this even more after reading your review.

  3. I adored BREADCRUMBS! The story is like a poem--with carefully crafted words and plot. Simply beautiful.

    I've also met Anne several times (I live in Minneapolis, so does she), and she is simply charming and very witty.

  4. I really wanted to like this book because so many MMGMers have recommended it (and now including you!). But I just couldn't get into it. I gave up about a third of the way through. Which just goes to show you, not every book is for every reader. Maybe someday I'll try again.

    You did a nice job with the review, though. That's a very poetic paragraph about the taste of fresh snow. Lovely!

    1. Very true about books and readers. I, for example, was not able to finish Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver, which apparently everyone else loves. But glad you liked the review!

  5. ok, i really have to read this book now. this is such a great review! thanks for posting about it!