Anne Ursu: Breadcrumbs

The cover of Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursiu, showing a girl of color looking over her shoulder as she walks into snow covered woods, where shadowy wolves are waiting for her.

“You should read this book,” said Becca, (and when doesn’t she? Honestly, you people are lucky you only have her thrusting books on you over the internet) “because the main character is a girl of color adopted by white parents and that’s just part if her identity and not really relevant to the story, because her Mom is still her Real Mom™ and really it’s about childhood imagination and the love of stories and awesome boy-girl friendships that suffer the strain of growing up, and isn’t that the sort of thing you like?”

Obviously, Becca was right.

Breadcrumbs takes place in two worlds: the world of school and divorcing parents and changing friendships, where well-meaning adults are constantly telling Hazel that she needs to Grow Up and Pay Attention and Try Harder. Hazel has just moved schools and she doesn’t understand the culture of the new school or why she’s no longer praised for being “creative and imaginative” but is being sent to a therapist for looking out of the window in class. Meanwhile her best friend is also going through some stuff (including ‘being a 10 year old boy’) and she doesn’t know how to do with that. I’ll be honest, this part was so  good at portraying an imaginative story-loving little girl who is misunderstanding and being misunderstood by the people around her, that more than once I had to put the book down and go and have childhood flashbacks.

I’m going through some stuff, leave me alone.

The second half of the book, however, takes place in the world of fairy tales and the Snow Queen, where Hazel goes in order to bring home Jack. Where she encounters characters from stories I didn’t even know I liked, where everyone wants something and every one hurts, and by learning to give rather than want, and to listen and understand, does Hazel find her best friend and being him home. Where she learns the very Pratchettian lesson not to be afraid of wolves, but be sensible and determined and to realize that people and relationships change, and the worlds changes, that sometimes you can’t fix everything, and that never is everything okay, but that that’s okay.

It’s a beautiful, moving, and engaging story that I kind of want to thrust at all the children in my life right now.

 

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