Friday, January 20, 2012

Bigger than a breadbox by Laurel Snyder

I'd seen some talk about Laurel Snyder's newest book online, loved the trailer, and followed some of the reactions and discussion on her blog. I thought I had a pretty good idea of the book, that it would be like her other titles, well-written, with a little bit of quirky fantasy, and strong ties to classic children's books.

I was wrong. Laurel Snyder has broken out of her other, delightful but lighter, works and penned a story that is profoundly real, emotional, painful, and yet ultimately hopeful. It completely grasps the feelings and behavior of a twelve year old girl, making her relatable and realistic, but still a unique, individual character.

Rebecca knows things aren't going well with her parents. Her dad's been out of work for a long time, ever since his cab was in an accident, and her mom is always tired and upset. But she doesn't expect to come home from school and be shoved into the car with her mom, little brother Lew, and some suitcases and drive from Baltimore to her Gran's house in Atlanta. She's angry, scared, and upset...and then she finds the breadbox.

The magic breadbox. It can give her anything she wants; except making things the way they were, the way they should be. Eventually, she realizes that it isn't even making her life easier or better, it's making things worse. Rebecca has to stop depending on magic and make some hard decisions. Things will never be the same and she will never be the same, but maybe life will go on and things will be ok.

Laurel Snyder perfectly captures the confused emotions of a girl who's stuck in a painful situation and doesn't feel she has any control. Rebecca's life and adventures in Atlanta have a kind of stunned, dream-like feeling; the reader perfectly realizes how Rebecca feels that her life is stuck and nothing that's happening is real. There's hope at the end, maybe unrealistic for many kids facing Rebecca's situation, but I think, and would guess that the author agrees with me, that kids need to have hope and realize that they may not be able to fix their parents, but they can choose how they will live their own lives.

Verdict: Don't expect this one to fly off the shelves like a Rick Riordan title, but don't relegate it to handing to kids who are going through divorce as bibliotherapy. It's about more than just divorce; it's about growing up, making your own choices, realizing adults aren't perfect and don't have all the answers, and dealing with the complexities of emotions. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 978-0-375-869167; Published September 2011 by Random House; Review copy provided by publisher (requested through author); Purchased for the library


Ms. Yingling said...

It is a sad book, and I wasn't expecting something so sad. The magical realism might make this a good book for students who NEED a fantasy for class but really don't want to read one.

Jennifer said...

Yes, it's definitely a point for knowing your collection because if you're only familiar with Snyder's earlier works this will be a surprise. But I think it's important to acknowledge kids' emotions honestly - I see far too many books where the kids' parents are divorced but it doesn't really affect them emotionally.
Good point about the magical realism - I suppose this book should technically be tagged fantasy, but the fantasy elements felt so real and intrinsic to the story that I went with fiction instead.