Review: Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu

September 27, 2011 8-12 years of age, Kid-Lit/Middle Grade, Review, Walden Pond Press 10


  • Reading level: Ages 9-12
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Walden Pond Press (September 27, 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 0062015052
  • Source: Publisher

Hazel is having a difficult time adjusting to a new school, her parents’ divorce, and life in general. Her neighbor, Jack, is the only real friend she has. He understands her, sticks up for her when school bullies pick on her. Her mother would prefer that she have female friends but to Hazel, Jack is all she needs. Nothing can separate this duo.

Then one day a shard of glass falls into Jack’s eye. He becomes a completely different person: coldhearted, no interest in hanging out with Hazel.  He blows her off as if she means nothing to him. Hazel is the only one who seems to see this change in Jack; her mother dismisses the  change in Jack’s behavior, stating that things like this happen. Hazel is unwilling to accept this; nothing would tear their friendship apart.

When Jack disappears, Hazel knows something must be amiss.  His parents behave oddly, stating he’s gone off to stay with a relative Hazel’s never heard of. It isn’t until one of his friends confesses to Hazel something he’s seen that she begins to grasp what has happened. Jack was seen talking to a woman in white, made of ice and coldness.

Hazel has heard of this woman, the Ice Queen, but assumed the stories were all made-up.  So she begins a trek into the cold, cold woods, desperate to find and rescue her closest and dearest friend. Along the way she comes across several unique creatures and individuals.  When she finds Jack, she must remind him of the warmth that their friendship brings, to rescue him from the frigid grasp of the Ice Queen’s reign.

Inspired by Hans Christian Anderson’s Snow Queen, Breadcrumbs is a beautifully written modern fairy tale, with prose so lyrical it would be a sin not to read it aloud.  Here is but one sampling:

“For the snow was not snow anymore, but a woman–tall and lithe like a sketch, in a white fur cape and a white shimmering gown that looked so thin it would melt if you touched it.  Hair like spun crystal framed cream-colored skin.  The woman stepped closer, revealing eyes as bright as the sun reflecting off snow.  But they were cold things, and it was like looking for solace in frost.”


More than anything, Breadcrumbs is a story about two children, bonded together by the loneliness they share.  For Jack, his loneliness comes the state his mother is in, a shell of the woman she used to be. For Hazel, her loneliness comes from her parents’ divorce, from starting a new school, from being different than those around her.

This is a book that is ageless, it can be appreciated by adults as well as children. As stated above, I highly recommend reading it aloud.  Now that I’ve finished reading it myself that’s what I plan to do: read it aloud to my children. Highly recommended.

10 Responses to “Review: Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu”

  1. Ree
    Twitter: LitObsession

    This sounds like a fantastic book. The sample of prose you’ve provided definitely makes me want to read more. If it’s all as beautiful as that, I can’t wait to get started! 🙂

  2. Anita

    Wonderful review, I’m even more intrigued than I was before. My almost 14 year old doesn’t like me to read aloud to him anymore, wonder if I can borrow someone else’s kids.
    Thank you for sharing this new take on an old fairy tale.

    • Jenn
      Twitter: jennbookshelves

      Have you seen the movie The Princess Bride? I have a feeling the reading aloud of this book will be similar to that one; child may act reluctant at first, but once he gets into the story, he won’t allow you to stop. This one is magical!

  3. Meg
    Twitter: writemeg

    The cover alone is captivating, and your review has definitely piqued my interest! Love the passage you shared. This one sounds magical.

  4. Aarti
    Twitter: aartichapati

    I don’t know where I first heard about this book, but it sounds lovely, and your review makes me want to go reserve it immediately. I love the reworking of a classic fairy tale.

  1. Review: Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu « Waking Brain Cells

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