A FEW OTHER EVENTS FOR
- Itâ€™s the birth date of Albert Payson Terhune (1872â€“1942) Gray Dawn; Lad: A Dog.
- In 1883, Royal Canadian Dragoons and The Royal Canadian Regiment are formed. Read The RCMP Musical Ride by Maxwell Newhouse.
- Itâ€™s Crossword Puzzle Day, in honor of the first crossword puzzle, created by Arthur Wynne and published in the newspaper New York World in 1913.
- The animated film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs premiers in movie theaters in 1937. Read a beautiful edition of the Brothers Grimm version of Snow-White and the Seven Dwarfs illustrated by Nancy Ekholm Burkert, translated by Randall Jarrell.
December is Read a New Book Month; many are hunting for new books not only to read but to buy for the holidays. Because of the robust young adult market, those authors who write books for fourth through sixth graders have been a bit overlooked. Fortunately, this is not true of our book of the day, Anne Ursuâ€™s Breadcrumbs, one of my favorite books from 2011.
In Breadcrumbs, Ursu skillfully develops a friendship story between Hazel, adopted from India, and Jack, her neighbor. When Hazelâ€™s father leaves, her mother has to put Hazel in the public school, where she and Jack ride the bus together and play at recess. Otherwise Hazel has trouble in school; she daydreams about great quests and adventuresâ€”roles that she and Jack play out in their time together. Jack is her anchor at the school, the only person who makes her feel that she fits in.
Then the story shifts. Ursu slowly brings these characters into a version of the Hans Christian Andersen story â€śThe Snow Queen.â€ť A piece of magic mirror, falling from the sky, changes the way Jack looks at everything. He views his best friend with disdain; his heart freezes. And, finally, the Snow Queen arrives with a sled pulled by wolves to bring him into her icy kingdom.
Devastated by Jackâ€™s rejection, Hazel still hopes that someday they will be friends again. When he vanishes, she gathers all her courage to set out, entering a magical forest to bring him back home again. On this journey, she encounters many of Hans Christian Andersenâ€™s characters. And, I am happy to report that finally the Little Match Girl, under Ursuâ€™s pen, meets a happier fate. (I have hated the Andersen ending to that story my entire life!)
For anyone who knows the Andersen stories, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, When You Reach Me, or any of the other books Ursu references, Breadcrumbs provides a wonderful romp through childrenâ€™s literature. But the reader can be completely ignorant of her scaffolding and still find this story of friendship and betrayal, love and loss, compelling in its own terms. It is one of those books that readers devour to find out what happens next. And the imagery and language are sublime.
I can think of no better book to pick up on a cold winterâ€™s eve. This is one of those books that I am grateful to have read as a new titleâ€”I know I will be going back to it many times again in the future.
Hereâ€™s a passage from Breadcrumbs:
She had stepped into the woods in the park and landed in an entirely different place. She knew this might happen. Sheâ€™d been to Narnia, Wonderland, Hogwarts, Dictionopolis. She had tessered, fallen through the rabbit hole, crossed the ice bridge into the unknown world beyond. Hazel knew this world. And it should have made this easier.
But it did not.
Originally posted December 21, 2011. Updated for .