by Anne Ursu


This book is a strange mixture of realism and fantasy. In the first part of the book, we meet Hazel, a ten year old fifth grader who is struggling to readjust. Her life has been turned upside down because her parents have recently divorced and she can no longer afford to attend private school. She is a loner who is having difficulty adjusting to her new public school. Hazel has one anchor, Her next door neighbor Jack has been her close friend for four years. They have a secret meeting place, an old abandoned house. Here they talk of dragons, castles, knights and pretend play. They skate and sled together in the Minneapolis winter. While Hazel’s mother tries to interest her in other female friends like Adelaide, Hazel only wants to spend time with Jack. Mom worries about Hazel’s troubles in school and her inability to concentrate or make new friends,

Suddenly, one day at school everything changes. Jack is hurt in the playground. Something has mysteriously landed in his eye. No one knows what happened or where the glass splinter came from. Jack disappears and Hazel searches for him. Jack is cold and mean to everyone, Hazel cannot understand why she is being shunned. Then she sees Jack walking into the forest and decides to follow him. Here is where the fantasy adventure begins in Part Two.

The reader is informed that a demon with a forty seven syllable name decided to fling an enchanted mirror into the sky which shattered into a million pieces. Strange things began to occur on earth. Personalities change, people stop working or suddenly isolate themselves. Jack developed a cold heart. Hazel knew something horrible had happened to Jack. She was determined to save him and so she walked alone into the woods at night with a backpack and a heavy heart.

Hazel saw the white witch at the edge of the forest, She knew that Jack had been lured into the woods and would never return if she could not break the spell. Now the adventure begins. Hazel faces her fears and death as she travels into the forest. She meets wolves, demons and strange creatures. Breadcrumbs has often been described as a retelling of the Snow Queen. There are elements of many other fairly tales as well like The Nightingale and The Red Shoes.

This book is written well and has beautiful language. There are many metaphors, analogies and personifications. It has been suggested for ages eight and up, but I feel much of the dark fantasy is more appropriate for children twelve and older. The struggle of the characters to find themselves and face their fears adds a level of realism to the story. Adults will find the tale intriguing and may enjoy reminiscing about their childhood struggles. Certainly, the book lends itself to lots of discussion and comparisons on the multifaceted plot and characters.