Tuesday, January 3, 2012
Book talk: Hazel and Jack were best friends until one snowy day in winter. "It was the sort of snowfall that, if there were any magic to be had in the world, would make it come out. And magic did come out. But not the kind you were expecting." Suddenly Jack starts acting strange and stops being friends with Hazel. Her mother says that these things happen sometimes and to make new friends, but Hazel knows that something is wrong. Then one day, Jack disappears entirely and no one even seems to notice. Hazel has read about this sort of thing in books, she knows what to do and may be the only one who can save him, so what choice does she have? She packs her supplies and sets off into the icy heart of winter.
Rocks my socks: I felt like Ursu did research for this book in the library of my mind. Although seeing as how we're not all the beautiful unique snowflakes we like to think of ourselves as I'm sure that plenty of other readers will feel the same way. I experienced a falling out with friends of the opposite gender at the same age. I love Hans Christian Andersen (partly due to my love of Danny Kaye) and many references to his stories are made with the overall framework provided by The Snow Queen. I appreciated the fact that it explores different family situations with Hazel's parents having recently divorced and Jack's mother going through something that makes her mentally absent. Hazel herself was adopted by her parents from India and while Hazel does wrestle with that a bit it's clear how much Hazel and her mother love each other and it's painted in a positive and realistic light that is lacking in so many children's novels where adoptive parents are horribly cruel or it's portrayed as a casual act. Hazel understands the world through the stories she has read, so when she sees Jack's depressed mother she describes her as looking like someone severed her daemon. I enjoyed little references like these. Casual references throughout the text to the baseball stats of various superheroes from their fantasy league never failed to make me smile. This story fit me right down to the Grover stuffed animal. I read this book on my birthday (because that's how librarians celebrate) and it was just the perfect choice. Thank you Anne Ursu for the lovely birthday present!
Rocks in my socks: Early on in the book Hazel's mom tries to explain snowflakes to her scientifically and Hazel gets upset, wanting to keep the mystery alive and this kind of willful ignorance upset me at first, but then I remembered when I was her age. Even though I was very into science as a kid for some things I'd avoid hearing any explanation because I wanted to keep a few mysteries. Ursu captured that sense so well that it reminded me of a feeling I entirely forgot having. So the thing that bugged me at first ended up just making me love the book all the more. The only thing I didn't really like were the pictures. They just felt too clean and modern to me for what is essentially a fairy tale.
Every book its reader: I'd give this to fourth graders and up. Adults looking for a fairy tale retold will be able to enjoy it as well and it was so nice to see a fairy tale retold novel that wasn't based on the life of a princess in the Disney cannon! Not only that but it's a fairy tale with a strong heroine who saves her man instead of the other way around. It's another great outsider tale as well. Book worms will appreciate all the literary references Hazel makes. Those looking for a school story will be drawn in by the first half and those looking for a fantasy will be drawn in by the second but there's enough of each in both halves to satisfy fans of both throughout. Tom boys in particular will appreciate Hazel's exasperated sighs as her mom tries to get her some female friends.
"Everyone in a story wants something..Especially the villains."
"'The reality is that sometimes people we love get hurt and we can't just turn into the Incredible Hulk.' Hazel looked at the floor. The Incredible Hulk batted .273 with a slugging percentage of .581. He was a disaster in the field, though."
"Now, the world is more than it seems to be. You know this, of course, because you read stories. you understand that there is the surface and then there are all the things that glimmer and shift underneath it."
"In books a good choice is choosing to go fight the dragon. In Hazel's life, it's not going sledding because you left your boots at school."
"The raucous voices of the boys in the back slapped against her like an angry sea. In the air around her, Jack laughed, Jack hooted, Jack cackled, Jack snickered, Jack was a whole thesaurus entry of glee, and Hazel could only let the waves batter her."
"When your heart has been poisoned and someone picks a dandelion for you--because it is bright and yellow and you seem like you could use something like that--all you can do is contemplate the funny ways of weeds."
"Hazel might have plunged into a mysterious fantasy woods after an evil witch with a pack of wolves at her disposal, but at least she'd brought a compass."
"Her father said she was a princess. He did not see that she was a brave knight. Jack did."
"There were so many Jacks she had known, and he had known so many Hazels. And maybe she wasn't going to be able to know all the Jacks that there would be. But all the Hazels that ever would be would have Jack in them, somewhere."
Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu
Buy it or check it out today!