By Anne Ursu
Walden Pond Press, 2012
Awards/recognitions: *Junior Library Guild Selection 2012
My middle daughter always preferred boys as friends, especially in elementary school. She could hold her own on any playing field and had no patience for the intricate girl hierarchy at school.
Breadcrumbs would have been a comfort to her. It’s the perfect book for any strong girl who has grown up with boys as favorite playmates and best friends. Friendships across gender lines can be tricky, though, especially as we enter our teens. How do friendships endure as the gender lines are drawn? Personalities change, and so do loyalties. So often, it feels like one of the parties has been whisked off to a new and heartless place. In Breadcrumbs, that’s exactly what happens.
It’s no secret that I admire magical stories, so I was already inclined to love this one. It unabashedly references lots of works that fantasy fans will recognize: The Golden Compass, Harry Potter,The Swiftly Tilting Planet. But what sets Breadcrumbs apart even more is that Ursu lets us spend plenty of time in the utterly ordinary, soul-sucking world of preteens, where the real monsters live, as we all know. It’s a world of dull school drills, hurtful boys, and unspoken grief – and Ursu captures it so delicately and respectfully that I almost didn’t care about the fantasy adventure that would come later. Still when it’s time to build a new world of ice and numbness, she does it flawlessly.
There’s no turning back time on growing up, of course. There’s no way to spare any of us the sting of change. But in Anne Ursu’s story, we see both the beauty of loyalty and hope for new things to come. MM