Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu

Lunch and prereading a book for the oldest.

While on our vacation last week, I caught sight of a book laying on one of the tables: Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu. My cousin-in-law’s sweet 4th grader told me that she had read this last year in school and it was so good. Always on the lookout for books for N1 (or new authors to explore), I ordered a copy on Amazon to check out.

Breadcrumbs is a modern retelling of Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen. (This is a fairy tale that I was unfamiliar with but I got the gist of it thanks to a quick read-up on it via Wikipedia.) Jack and Hazel are best friends. In Hazel’s small world of divorced parents and as a new 5th grader in the local public school, Jack is her only friend. The relationship is severed when Jack gets a piece of glass from a broken enchanted mirror in his eye and it hardens his heart to Hazel. Hazel can’t understand what has happened, and when Jack mysteriously disappears, she goes in search of him. Hazel has to find her way through an enchanted forest, discerning who she can trust and who isn’t safe, as she searches for her friend. Based on the little that I know of the original story, I found this a clever modern retelling that I found well done.

I’ve recently been listening, learning, and thinking about the importance of reading fairy tales to my munchkins. Sarah at Amongst Lovely Things tipped me off to a talk by Andrew Pudewa (of Institute for Excellence in Writing) on Fairy Tales and the Moral Imagination that was excellent (and worth the few dollars for the download). I won’t due justice to the talk, but one of the things that I pulled away was the danger in modern literature in taking those characters that are considered universally evil, and making them the hero or good guy in the story. In doing this, it blurs the lines between good and evil – everything is gray because any character can be good or evil when in reality (and in Scripture which is what my reality is based on) there IS a definite black and white / good and evil in the world. In traditional fairy tales, the good character is ALWAYS good, and evil bad guy is ALWAYS evil and these stories reinforce that truth and that it is noble to fight for good at all times. This is a picture of what we see in the Bible and what I want and need to be constantly reinforcing with my kids.

That tangent to explain that I liked this story. There was a clear evil that Jack had to be rescued from and it was through Hazel’s love for him that this was accomplished. I don’t know that I would hand this off to the minimum age recommended on the book cover (8-12). It seems like it would be better understood and discussed by an older age (10 and up), depending on the maturity of the child.

If you are interested in some more reading on fairy tales and the benefits to reading them to your children some links to pass on:

- Sarah blogs about this so much better than I could in this post and this one and I highly recommend them to you.

- Carrie (at Reading to Know) talking on it here, here and here.

- Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Childis on my TBR list and was the free book at this year’s Classical Conversations practicum.

- T is reading A Landscape with Dragons: The Battle for Your Child's Mind right now and I hope to steal it off his stack soon.

Affiliate Amazon links scattered throughout. : )0


  1. Read it and loved it!

    1. I don’t remember seeing this on your blog at all! I felt the same way about the book – I loved that it mentioned all sorts of my favorite books with little references here and there, but I never knew if it was just as a nod because she loved the books to or if the witch was supposed to tie in with Narnia?

      Still thoroughly enjoyed it though! : )

  2. I'm putting this on my to-read pile. Thanks for your thoughts on it! I'm unfamiliar with The Snow Queen but I think I'll look it up, as you did. :)

  3. Adding this to our reading list! I enjoyed your interpretation of the good/evil role in fairy tale vs. contemporary fiction. There is a whole blog post in those few sentences I think. I am actually forwarding this post to my friend who is dealing with this very issue right now in a project her daughter is working on.

  4. Ooh, thanks for the links. And if you and Amy both liked this book then I can only ask myself, "WHAT am I waiting for?!?!?!!"


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