Welcome to my blog. I often think I was born with a book in my hand. I have always enjoyed reading, but more importantly, talking about books. This blog is partially about reviews, but is really a forum to talk about what I'm reading, and express all of the thoughts and feelings that there simply isn't room for in a professional review. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on your favourite books as you follow my reading journey.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Bigger than a Breadbox: A Magical Middle Grade Read

12-year-old Rebecca is miserable when her mother suddenly whisks them off to Atalanta to stay with her grandmother for an unknown amount of time. As happy as she is to see her grandmother, she misses her father and her best friend back in Baltimore, and wants desperately for her parents to get back together.

Her discovery of a wish-granting breadbox in her grandmother's attic, makes things easier for a while, and the seemingly endless supply of hair ribbons and candy that she wishes for goes a long way to helping her to fit in at school. When one of Rebecca's wishes reveals where the items are really coming from, she is forced to think about who she really is, and who she wants to be.

First of all, if you have never heard of Laurel Snyder, rush out and buy her previous three books while you wait for this one's September release. Those of you who enjoy Wendy Mass's books (another author who deserves Spinelli like status) will particularly enjoy these, and Any Which Wall is one of my favourite books to recommend for read-aloud.

 Often referred to as "magical realism", her books are deceptively simple.  Rebecca is a normal, and likeable girl, who like most kids, gets a bit carried away with her wishing. Starting over, whether we realize it or not, usually means leaving something behind, and her wishes are designed to try and make her a little less lonely. For the first time in her life, she's the outsider, and it's a very natural desire to want to fit in.  As Rebecca discovers, however, wishes will only take her so far, and the moment when she discovers where the items she wishes for are coming from, she is faced with a complex moral choice that defines her as a character. It's the first time that she really sees herself, and it's a transforming moment. I also loved her Becky/Rebecca dillemma.  Rebecca is who she really is, but somehow Becky seems to fit in better. Rebecca is the girl who stands up for a bullied girl, Becky stays silent, not wanting to draw attention to herself.

Like Wendy Mass, one thing that Laurel Snyder does extremely well is allow her characters to work things out for themselves without a great deal of adult interference. Wishes and wishing play a large role in her books, and the magical element is designed to help the protagonists work out their problems rather than escape from them. Rebecca's parents are not bad people. They both love her and her brother, and my heart broke when she said goodbye to her dad.  Neither parents aren't perfect, and Snyder shows her readers that it's ok to get mad at them sometimes, and to stand up for themselves. Parents can be selfish and wrong but it doesn't mean they love their children less.  For the growing number of children that are dealing with separated/divorced parents, it's an extremely reassuring message.

This is a book that will run you through a whole gamut of emotions. There is no fairy tale ending for these characters, but you'll close the book with a sigh of relief, and a smile, knowing that no matter what happens after that, they'll be ok.

Perfect for middle-grade readers who need a complex story, but are not yet ready for really gritty reads.